Over a decade ago, I wrote a short piece called “Yes, Human Cloning Should Be Permitted,” published in the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The piece was a response to an earlier article, by Patricia Baird, called “Should Human Cloning Be Permitted?” The question in Baird’s title was a rhetorical one: she argued that the answer was very clearly “no.”
Now, to be clear, my article wasn’t an argument in favour of cloning. In 2000, when the article was published, it was pretty clear that cloning humans would be a bad idea — the science of cloning mammals was still in its infancy, and trying it on homo sapiens would constitute unwarranted experimentation on humans. The point of my article was rather to respond to what I took to be flawed arguments in Baird’s article.
Baird argued that the psychological burdens on a clone — knowing of its own bizarre genesis — would be too severe. And yet she ignored the fact that many, many children today result from other technological interventions in the human life cycle. Just how would clones be different, in this regard? She also worried about the “commodification” of children, but didn’t mention the fact that children pretty much always constitute an expense. When you spend tens of thousands of dollars on special care for a disabled child, do you then regard them as a commodity? And she claimed that clones would miss out on an “important part of human identity,” namely the feeling of being the unique result of two genetic lineages. But, I replied, in the absence of evidence, such worries are mere pop psychology. Plenty of people don’t identify equally with both their maternal and paternal lineages, and many people grow up ignorant of one or both.
In general, the point of my argument was that the worries listed by Baird were insufficient to justify her solution, namely a ban on human cloning. Yes, the science then was primitive, but that fact justified caution, not an outright ban. But that was 2000, more than a decade ago. Have things changed? Has the science of cloning advanced to the point where it might be justifiable to try it on humans?
You can download my article in PDF form, here: “Yes, Human Cloning Should Be Permitted.”