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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

9811-HUMAN CLONING

Presentation at the Seminar on Ethics in Medicine held Hospital Kuala Lumpur on 28th November 1998 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. MB ChB (MUK), MPH, DrPH (Harvard), Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine, International Islamic University, Kuantan,  Malaysia.  e-mail omarkasule@yahoo.com

Cloning was achieved in sheep by transfer of a nucleus from the somatic cell of an adult animal into an egg whose nucleus had been removed. A live sheep was subsequently born (1, 2, 4). This process seems to be technically feasible in humans. In the foreseeable future some products of cloning may be available.

 

Cloning is not creation of new life from basic organic and non-organic matter. Creation of life de novo is the prerogative of God alone. Cloning starts with a living nucleus with its genetic characteristics (3). The product resulting from cloning is programmed by the DNA in the nucleus.

 

Human cloning although not yet achieved has already raised a lot of ethical controversies. The ethical debate on human cloning has been complicated be sensational media reporting. The public is not aware of the biological end ethical issues involved (4). The major ethical issues raised are: loss of human uniqueness and individuality, hazardous unexpected products from cloning, and criminal misuse of the cloning technology (2).

 

Cloning relates to a powerful human emotion of self-perpetuation. The desire to perpetuate their kind or continue living in some way is a very strong drive in humans. It is satisfied partly by the sexual reproductive process in which the person's identity continues in their offspring. The emotion is also obvious in animist beliefs in ghosts and ancestral spirits. Reincarnation is another interpretation of self-perpetuation. The ancient Egyptians preserved their dead as mummies in the hope they will live again. Many political leaders have tried to leave behind monuments so that the future generations may know about their achievements.

 

Cloning as a concept goes far beyond the natural method of human sexual reproduction. If human cloning is ever achieved in practice, it will not be the first exception to human sexual reproduction. The Prophet Adam had neither a father nor a mother. The Prophet Isa had a mother but no father. Asexual reproduction is common in the animal and plant kingdoms. Bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms reproduce asexually.

 

The issue of quality of life arises in the case of cloning if ever it becomes a reality. The product of cloning will not have the same quality as we know it in humans today. This is because a human is both matter and spirit. During the first trimester of intra-uterine development the soul, ruh, is inserted into the body by God. There is one ruh for each being. Thus the cloned product can not have a ruh and will therefore not be human being as we know. The product of cloning will have all the biological properties of the ordinary human being but will not have the spiritual qualities. Thus the life of the cloned product will be of little or no quality. We can only speculate how that cloned product will behave. The possibilities are frightening as the brave new world of biotechnology unfolds.

 

The Islamic tradition discourages speculative thinking about hypothetical events. Issues are discussed from the legal and ethical aspects after they have occurred. We therefore can not engage in a detailed discussion of cloning until it has occurred and we see its implications in practice.

 

REFERENCES

Brdicka-R:  Human cloning. Do we have too much courage or not enough? New perspectives in medicine. Cas-Lek-Cesk. 1998 Jun 29; 137(13): 387-90

Harris-J: "Goodbye Dolly?" The ethics of human cloning. J-Med-Ethics. 1997 Dec; 23(6): 353-60

Blacksher-E: Cloning human beings. Responding to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission's Report. Hastings-Cent-Rep. 1997 Sep-Oct; 27(5): 6-9

Hopkins-PD Bad copies. How popular media represent cloning as an ethical problem. Hastings-Cent-Rep. 1998 Mar-Apr; 28(2): 6-13

 

Brdicka-R:  [Human cloning. (Do we have too much courage or not enough?) New perspectives in medicine. Cas-Lek-Cesk. 1998 Jun 29; 137(13): 387-90

Cloning mammals including man has become a real possibility of these years. The result obtained in sheep and cattle demonstrated that technical problems have been solved and now other disciplines--philosophy, ethics, law etc are confronted with this challenge. On one side we have to look for all risks and adopt adequate responsibility, on the other side to consider medical benefits by solving problems with reproduction, organ transplantation and inherited diseases. As the last but not least we have to establish formal rules and to introduce the conception into all disciplines involved, in the first place into genetics. Trying to contribute to the adaptation of formal genetics to the new situation we propose to link the donor and the recipient of the nucleus with a triple line in pedigree schemes.

 

Harris-J: "Goodbye Dolly?" The ethics of human cloning. J-Med-Ethics. 1997 Dec; 23(6): 353-60

The ethical implications of human clones have been much alluded to, but have seldom been examined with any rigour. This paper examines the possible uses and abuses of human cloning and draws out the principal ethical dimensions, both of what might be done and its meaning. The paper examines some of the major public and official responses to cloning by authorities such as President Clinton, the World Health Organisation, the European parliament, UNESCO, and others and reveals their inadequacies as foundations for a coherent public policy on human cloning. The paper ends by defending a conception of reproductive rights of "procreative autonomy" which shows human cloning to be not inconsistent with human rights and dignity.

 

Blacksher-E: Cloning human beings. Responding to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission's Report. Hastings-Cent-Rep. 1997 Sep-Oct; 27(5): 6-9

In February of this year two figures were added to our daily life. Dolly, a cloned sheep, and her maker, Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut, could be found in our newspapers, on our televisions, across the Internet, and in our conversations. What Wilmut had done was indeed new, if not fantastic. By transferring the nucleus of a somatic cell from an adult animal into an egg from which the nucleus had been removed, Wilmut successfully cloned a mammal--a technique that had never before succeeded.

 

Hopkins-PD Bad copies. How popular media represent cloning as an ethical problem. Hastings-Cent-Rep. 1998 Mar-Apr; 28(2): 6-13

The media, perhaps more than any other slice of culture, influence what we think and talk about, what we take to be important, what we worry about. And this was especially true when news of Dolly hit the airwaves and newstands. Most Americans received training in the ethics of cloning before they knew what cloning was. Media coverage fixed the content and outline of the public moral debate, both revealing and creating the dominant public worries about cloning humans. The primary characterization of cloning as an ethical issue centers around three connected concerns: the loss of human uniqueness and individuality, the pathological motivations of a cloner, and the fear of out-of-control scientists.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule November 1998