Bioethics of Cloning


The bioethics of cloning includes a range of discussions in law, philosophy, medicine, social policy and animal and human rights. The bioethical debates about cloning have focused mainly on human cloning for research and reproduction. All the types of cloning are explained and bioethical concerns for each are identified. A non‐normative definition of cloning is provided. The concept of moral status is introduced and defences of research cloning and reproductive human cloning are offered. The harm argument and the monozygotic twin analogy are both evaluated as objections and defences of different types of cloning. Additional bioethical concerns relating to plant monoculture, genetically modified foods and climate change are shown to be relevant to the bioethics of cloning. Although a defence of reproductive human cloning is offered, the nearly worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning makes it unlikely that cloning will become a common practice.

Key Concepts

  • A diploid nucleus contains a full compliment of genetic material, genes, from both a paternal and maternal parent.

  • Cloning is an asexually produced copy of a pre‐existing genetic sequence, cell or individual organism.

  • SCT or nuclear cell somatic transfer is the fusion or insertion of a diploid nucleus into an egg (oocyte) and is sometimes referred to as SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer).

  • Blastomeres occur after the zygote divides into a two‐celled organism, and remains a balstomere until the 16–32 cell state at which point it becomes a mourla.

  • Cellular compaction and differentiation occurs at different points in embryonic development for different species, but the basic point is that the cells of the embryo cleave together at some point and begin to specialise into the particular kinds of cells they are gong to be.

  • Enucleated eggs are eggs which have their nucleus removed for either implanting a new nucleus or using the removed nucleus.

  • Totipotent, pluripotent and multipotent cells are the three kinds of cells in the human body, where totipotent cells can give rise to any differentiated cell in the body, pluripotent cells can become most cells in the body and multipotent cells can become a subset of the special differentiated cells.

Keywords: bioethics; cloning; moral status; research techniques; human reproduction


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Further Reading

Heyd D (1992) Genethics: Moral Issues in the Creation of People. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Ruse M and Sheppard A (ed.) (2001) Cloning. Amherst: Prometheus Books.

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How to Cite close
Pynes, Christopher A(Sep 2010) Bioethics of Cloning. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003475]