Biomedical ethics: opposing viewpoints by Tamara L. Roleff

By Tamara L. Roleff

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Muller a generation ago, the outcome depended on the usual “genetic lottery” that occurs each time a sperm fertilizes an egg, fusing their individual genetic heritages into a new individual. Cloning, by contrast, would allow the selection of a desired genetic prototype which would be replicated in each of the “offspring,” at least on the level of the genetic material in the cell nucleus. OBJECTIONS TO A EUGENICS PROGRAM It might be enough to object to the institution of a program of human eugenic cloning—even a voluntary program—that it would rest on false scientific premises and hence be wasteful and misguided.

Reprinted by permission of Transaction Publishers from “A Market for Organs,” by Andy H. Barnett, Roger D. Blair, and David L. Kaserman, Society, September/October 1996. Copyright ©1996 by Transaction Publishers; all rights reserved. 52 Biomedical Ethics Frontmatter 2/26/04 4:02 PM Page 53 P ublic awareness of the critical shortage of cadaveric human organs made available for transplantation was recently heightened by the unfortunate case of Mickey Mantle. Mr. Mantle’s need for and relatively rapid receipt of a liver transplant brought widespread attention to the plight of thousands of other sufferers of heart, liver, lung, and kidney failure whose lives depend upon timely receipt of a suitable organ for transplantation.

But what about the ultimate cloning—copying synapse by synapse a human brain? If such a technological feat were ever possible, for one brief instant we might have two identical minds. But then suppose neuron No. 20478288 were to fire randomly in brain 1 and not in brain 2. The tiny spasm would set off a cascade that reshaped some circuitry, and there would be two individuals again. We each carry in our heads complexity beyond imagining and beyond duplication. Even a hard-core materialist might agree that, in that sense, everyone has a soul.

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