Human Cloning: Legal Aspects


Human cloning debates fall into two broad categories: reproductive and therapeutic. Both varieties of human cloning have important legal aspects from ownership of genetic material, stem cell research, the dignity and respect for human life, reproductive rights of individuals, among other things, to the rights of potentially cloned individuals. Two basic facts complicate the legal issues with cloning: the biological technology needed to achieve human cloning can be found in most good labs, and writing and enforcing laws on either kind of human cloning is difficult to achieve. And even though there is a general consensus about the need to ban reproductive cloning in the world community, the views concerning therapeutic cloning are varied and have complicated the legal matters internationally and in individual nations. It is certain that regulations will continue to change at a rate slower than the biological technology.

Key concepts:

  • Reproductive cloning is cloning where the live birth of another individual is intended, and has been consistently opposed by all government and most individuals.

  • Therapeutic cloning is cloning for purposes other than the live birth of an individual, and has seen support by some governments and many individuals.

  • UNESCO or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization which functions as a mechanism that attempts to gain universal agreements on emerging ethical issues related to science and education.

  • The UK has a clear prohibition on reproductive human cloning, but works to keep laws current with and relevant to technological advances.

  • The EU supports funding for embryonic stem cell research, but has banned human cloning.

  • The USA has a complex mix of state and federal regulations and interlocutors often conflate the cloning issues with the abortion debate, which gives rise to strong objections to both types of cloning and to stem cell research.

Keywords: cloning; law; human rights; international regulation; genetics


Council of Europe (1997) Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and the Dignity of the Human Being with Regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: On the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings. Strasbourg, Published by the Council of Europe, France (

European Commission (2000) Opinion of the European Group on Ethics in Science and the New technologies, Opinion No. 15, Paris, 14 November. Reprinted in European Commission Research Directorate‐General, Survey of opinions from National Ethics Committees or similar bodies in relation to Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Use (ed., Line Matthiessen), vol. 1, EU Member States.

Matthews K (2007) ‘Overview of World Human Cloning Policies’ Version 1.7: 3 August.

UK Parliament (1990) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. London, UK: HMSO. ISBN 0‐10‐543790‐0.

UK Parliament (2001) Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001. London, UK.

United Nations Declaration A/59/516/Add.1, 22 August 2005.

Further Reading

Beyleveld D, Pattinson S and Haker H (eds) (2000) The Ethics of Genetics in Human Procreation. Ashford: Ashgate.

Brazier M (1999) Regulating the reproduction business. Medical Law Review 7: 166–193.

Brownsword R (2002) Stem cells, superman and the report of the select committee. Modern Law Review 65: 568–587.

Caulfield T (2003) Human cloning laws, human dignity and the poverty of the policy making dialogue in BMC Medical Ethics 4:3. DOI: 10.1186/1472‐6939‐4‐3.

Holland S, Lebacqz K and Zoloth L (eds) (2001) The human embryonic stem cells debate. Science, Ethics and Public Policy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Morgan D (2002) Science, medicine and ethical change. In: Bainham A, Day‐Sclater S and Richards M (eds) Body Lore and Body Laws, pp. 329–342. Oxford and Portland, OR: Hart Publishing.

Robertson J (2002) Cloning as a reproductive right. In: McGee G (ed.) The Human Cloning Debate, pp. 42–57. Berkley, CA: Berkley Hills Books.

Ruse M and Aryne S (eds) (2001) Cloning: Responsible Science or Technomadness? Amberst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Ruse M and Christopher AP (eds) (2006) The Stem Cell Debate, 2nd edn. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

UNU‐ISA Report (2007) Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for UN Governance.

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Pynes, Christopher A(Dec 2009) Human Cloning: Legal Aspects. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005200.pub2]