Ethical Dilemmas

Dr. Tracie O'Keefe


Issue 5
February 1999

On the cusp of the third millennium, human cloning inevitably appears as a possible reality upon the horizons of our scientific knowledge. After the first publicly cloned sheep, Dolly, in Scotland, scientists now believe they have eliminated many of the difficulties that can occur from deformities as a result of cloning. However, since the thalidomide disaster, as yet unsubstantiated rumours of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cases of hermaphroditism, and environmental toxicity-induced intersexuality are not behind us but with us. Are we really as clever as we think we are? Many of us consider that the scientific progress made so far in cloning claims clarity out of arrogance instead of genuine knowledge.

In many societies across the globe it is very difficult for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and transsexual people to be parents. This does not happen because they are unable to physically reproduce, although some may be in that position as 10-15 per cent of the population are infertile, but because social conditions do not allow the right atmosphere for the natural processes of breeding. Undoubtedly as with adoptions from the developing world, surrogacy and IVF, cloning will, whether legally or illegally, be a real option available to many of society's sex, gender and sexuality minorities.

It is the legal and social right of every heterosexual couple to breed . . . and breed . . . and breed . . . until the earth is crammed full of mouths to be fed - and even developing countries only pretend to penalise overpopulation. Throughout the world it is regarded as a basic human right to reproduce; however, with sex, gender and sexuality minorities they are often deprived of those rights, legally, socially and medically. Cloning could make available reproduction as never before because it will only take one parent to initiate breeding, although a woman will be needed to carry the fetus. Even that may only be temporary.

Many ethical issues need to spring to mind in those minorities who have experienced oppression and difficulties in their lives. If a person cloned themselves, being a sexual minority person, would that mean their clone would be a sexual minority person? Studies of twins have mixed results, having found that although many traits are shared by monzomatic twins (who share the genes and came from the same egg), it is possible for such naturally occurring clones to have differing sexualties. However, other studies have found twins separated at birth who have grown up with uncanny similarities.

Some as yet unanswered questions need to be thought through very carefully by anyone belonging to those minority groups rushing vainly into the pursuit of reproduction. It is not as though there aren't enough children in the world already. In fact, ecologically, there are probably too many. Many children grow into adults who deforest our planet, destroy coral reefs, pollute atmospheres, turn arable land into deserts, drive even more motor cars and increase the size of the hole in the ozone layer. Children are, after all, only in short supply for the childless. It could be said that they are a commodity held to ransom by the elitist breeding order, who constantly exclude the childless, demanding unreasonable examinations to join their club.

Professor Ian Craft of the London Fertility Clinic has spoken publicly about how he remembers many members of the public being against IVF when that first became a viable treatment for infertility. He suggests that it would be inappropriate to ban human cloning altogether when it could be a very good way for infertile people to have children, and he finds nothing at all wrong with the idea.

Professor Robert White, the Papal adviser on cloning, says that it is not acceptable because he believes that each human being has its own soul that comes into being during conception and that would not happen with cloning. However, he has no objection to head transplants as he sees that as extending someone's life. He also states that he does not believe that there is anything wrong with cloning technically, once it has been perfected, but his beliefs are based on religious moralisation.

Louise Brown, the first test tube baby, is presently attending university in England. In 1997, 1500 childless couples in the USA had babies through IVF. All the fears of gross physical deformities and mental retardation that were feared from IVF programme babies have not been borne out.

No one who has had the privilege of breeding could ever, in any circumstances, understand the biological urge that drives the childless to seek any available means to become parents in order to fulfil our own destiny; however, perhaps, in the age of sexual, gender and sexuality freedom, the minority childless may not have to fulfil that destiny to become whole. Perhaps a positive identity of the responsible childless person's contribution towards the arrestation of the earth's destruction could be recognised with a CHILD FREE AWARD.

Is this truly a world where we actually need to increase our numbers - or do we need, in fact, to decrease them?

What we would get with a clone would be the repeated benefits and deficits of the original host. Genetically engineering a clone embryo could lead to a change of sex, gender performance or sexuality propensities. Perhaps as genetic science progresses, engineered clones may be a way forward; however, we must never forget that the strength in nature always emerges from its purely random chaos. The resistance to end elimination of disease and disaster along the evolutionary chain of any species or sub species is our inevitable safeguard against extinction. As humans we have reached our limits of evolvement if we prevent that chaos from offering us new opportunities.

Will we be genuinely a chip off the old block, or will we go shopping for a baby in box for Christmas?

"Triplets, please - preferably a four-month incubation period because my holiday is booked for May . . . Yes I will rent the incubator space, I don't want to have to bother with gestation at home . . . No I don't want any Asian genes thank you . . . Good Germanic speaking abilities and features . . . I know I look Chinese myself but what has that got to do with it? . . . Blonde hair and blue eyes and if you don't get it right I shall want a full refund . . . Yes one girl and two extremely aggressive males with good business skills . . . Gay? Certainly not... perhaps you can pop a transsexual in for the other two to play with . . . What do you mean you don't take American Express!"

Finally, whatever our desires to produce a harmonious empathic and evolving humanity we must never forget it is the sheer violence of contention among our species that propelled us from Africa to Alaska, the moon and far beyond. Choice must always be available, not only to the majority, but also to the minorities to repeat their mistakes.

The World Medical Association urging doctors in 1998 to boycott research into human cloning and any institutions involved in such activities makes you think that perhaps they have cloned some ostrich genes themselves by sticking their heads in the sand. They have not made any protestation about experimental mice who had to have human ears grown on their backs or pigs whose hearts are destined to tick away inside a transplant victim.

The first official human cloning experiment is likely to take place in Japan due to the lack of official ethical guidelines and the culturally liberal scientific curiosity of that culture. Unofficial attempts have undoubtedly taken place already out of the public eye. The world will watch with disapproval and reserved interest over a period of several generations, since genetic abnormalities can be like timebombs waiting to happen, generically skipping mutations for a series of lifetimes. What legacy the progress in the manipulation of microbiology can leave to our children and grandchildren can only be disclosed by time, and time alone.

Date-stamped methods of lesbians inseminating themselves with kitchen spoons and gay men sending the contents of their fantasies to a friend for nine months are nearly over. Babies to order will be expensive in the first few years of the third millennium, but like everything else demand always bring the market into line with the common person's budget.

Dr Tracie O'Keefe DCH is a clinical hypnotherapist, psychotherapist, and counsellor formerly practising at The London Medical Centre, Harley Street in the UK. Now the Director of the Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Identity Clinic, at The O'Keefe Institute, Sydney, Australia.
In asociation with Katrina Fox, she is the author of a number of books, details of which may be found on her website:
Their latest publication is Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex & Gender Diversity, published by Jossey Bass Wiley

Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 26.01.04