Human cloning: category, dignity, and the role of bioethics

Bioethics. 2003 Oct;17(5-6):517-25. doi: 10.1111/1467-8519.00365.


Human cloning has been simultaneously a running joke for massive worldwide publicity of fringe groups like the Raelians, and the core issue of an international movement at the United Nations in support of a treaty to ban the use of cloning techniques to produce a child (so called reproductive cloning). Yet, even though debates on human cloning have greatly increased since the birth of Dolly, the clone sheep, in 1997, we continue to wonder whether cloning is after all any different from other methods of medically assisted reproduction, and what exactly makes cloning an 'affront to the dignity of humans.' Categories we adopt matter mightily as they inform but can also misinform and lead to mistaken and unproductive decisions. And thus bioethicists have a responsibility to ensure that the proper categories are used in the cloning debates and denounce those who try to win the ethical debate through well-crafted labels rather than well-reasoned argumentations. But it is as important for bioethicists to take a position on broad issues such as human cloning and species altering interventions. One 'natural question' would be, for example, should there be an international treaty to ban human reproductive cloning?

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Organism / ethics*
  • Cloning, Organism / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commodification
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / ethics
  • Social Control, Formal
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Twins
  • United Nations