July 28, 2011 | Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Opponents of reproductive cloning fear that the resulting children will not be able to live fully independent lives. Opponents fear that these children’s choices will be constrained in numerous ways and assert that an open future — which is a right of every child — will never be possible for a child who is a clone. Reproductive cloning naysayers believe that the human rights of these children will be violated and therefore the process should be banned.

Various premises provide the background to these beliefs. One premise asserts that a child who is a clone is genetically identical to the donor of the DNA. The DNA source may be the child’s mother or father, some other relative, a friend of the family, an anonymous unrelated donor, or a celebrity. The parents of this child will, knowingly or unknowingly, presume many things about the child’s behavior, talents, interests, and destiny. These presumptions will subtly direct the child toward specific choices and actions that may or may not be relevant to the child’s own desires and interests. The child may appear to be an autonomous individual, but in fact her autonomy is severely hampered by the expectations of her parents and other adults familiar with her genetic history.

The child himself may experience self-imposed limitations and concerns about his individuality. He may wonder whether his parents love him for himself or because he is a copy of a loved one. The child may wonder whether he is in fact an individual or merely a copy of the DNA source. If the child perceives himself primarily as a copy he may consciously or unconsciously mimic, to the best of his ability, the characteristics of the DNA source. Or he may “rebel” and develop behaviors and interests contrary to those he believe are possessed by the DNA donor. In either situation the child’s autonomy — his ability to make his own choices — is constrained by prior knowledge. He believes his destiny revolves around who the DNA source is and what the DNA source has done. An open future is denied him by the very fact of his existence.

The child who is a clone likely believes she is not unique. Someone identical to her already exists and has made a set of choices that may or may not have been successful. She likely believes her destiny is already foretold and may become fatalistic. Rather than perceiving an almost infinite array of possibilities, the child is confronted with only a few life trajectories that have already happened. As she is genetically identical to the DNA source, she may believe her life will likely develop in exactly that way. Regardless, these mental constructs will significantly constrain her choices and her development in ways that mitigate the possibility of an open future. Being a clone has violated her rights as a human being.

So say the opponents of reproductive cloning.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.