Modern Biotechnology And Dignity Of Human Life; An Ethical Analysis

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy


Chapter One


1.1. General Introduction

With the Becconian dictum ‘knowledge is power”, scientist have gone the extra mile on how to improve the environmental condition and then revamp the quality of human life. Now, we witness a great and extraordinary progress in Bio-technological sciences and medicine. This great advancement in medicine and biotechnological sciences has given human beings new pattern of life. However, these efforts of the scientists and biotechnologists have paved ways for extension of scientific researches on the human person. Thus, the great question is: Are these scientific and biotechnological discoveries a blessing or a curse to humanity?

Now, we can talk of manipulations on human genetic constitution. Modern biotechnologists and scientists have changed the status quo inbiology and medicine. Presently in Biotechnological sciences, we hear of microsurgery on a two weeks embryo. A stem cell from a human embryo can now be made to turn into a heart, kidney or any major organ cells and replace any damaged cell of the human body, thereby, providing opportunity for manufacturing human spare parts. Scientists claim to produce human embryo through various means like natural reproduction, asexual reproduction, and parthenogenesis. Through these means, they have thrown the entire humanity and the scientific community into confusion as when human life begins.

However, among all these, the most prominent discoveries include the prodigious changes in genetic engineering, like human foetal experimentations, eugenics, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, abortion, surrogate motherhood, and cloning. In addition, human modifications, such as plastic surgery, sex change, and the preservation and commercialization of human organs and embryos are all strange scientific possibilities. All these are topics in bioethical debates and controversies in biotechnological sciences and medicine. Such issues like the foregoing raised ethical and moral questions. When does human life begin? What is the status of the human embryo? Is human embryo a human person? Does human embryo have legal and moral right? All these are basic ethical question raised by the activities of these scientists and biotechnologists on the human person. Sequel to this, many groups developed positions to defend the human life and thereby restore the human dignity.

In this work, I specifically choose to explore the issue of human cloning. In fact, the central question is: “Should humans be cloned?” Moreover, scientists and biotechnologist have deviced artificial methods of creating human beings. This touches the beginnings of human life, together with the quality of life and end of the human life. The point is that human cloning involves intentional creation and destruction of human being in the name of saving the life of others. Is killing a person’s life to save another’s morally good? That is a basic ethical issue. According to Pope John Paul 11 “what is technically possible is not always morally admissible” Hence, in his address to the International Congress on the Transplants on 2000-AUS-29, he comments, “Medical…methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided.”[1]

As part of the introduction, this chapter includes the setting of the whole work in its methodological framework. Let us consider these frameworks.


1.2. The Statement Of Problem

Since the birth of the sheep named Dolly in 1997, the possibility of human cloning has left very little to be doubted. Thus, many debates have been going on about the issue. Should humans be cloned? If humans are cloned, what would be their social status? Who is responsible for cloned humans? Do clones have rights and legal protection? Should the deformed cloned individual be accepted?

In actual sense, human cloning techniques involve intentional creation and destruction of human embryos either for transplantation or experiments. The American Association for the Advancement of sciences summarized the problem in these words:

…. not only do most attempts to clone mammals fail, about 30 percent of clones born alive are affected with large offspring syndrome and other debilitating conditions. Several cloned animals have died prematurely from infections and other complications… the attempt to clone humans at this time is considered potentially dangerous and ethically irresponsible[2].

However, there is diversity of opinions on human cloning. Its morality has been argued. Although, each argument has some interest to protect, the fundamental question is: Should humans be cloned? This is a problem that needed an urgent attention in biotechnological sciences. Here, we need to redefine the status of the human embryo. Human embryo is not just an object for experimentation but rather a unique and distinctive being, and should be accorded a profound respect and dignity. His uniqueness and distinctiveness differentiate him from every other creature. This is the dilemma of the modern science and technology especially genetic engineering.


1.3. The Purpose Of Study

The real question is what has this work to contribute to the global debates on the issue of human cloning? That is towards resolving the problem of human cloning. Naturally, it is not ethical or moral to kill. It is against the moral law to destroy another person’s life. But embryos are deprived the right to live by denying them “personhood” by some biologists. This is the basis for their exposure as objects of research and experimentation.

The purpose of this work as a matter of fact, is to look at the scientific practices or researches on human life and their ethical implications. This consideration will necessarily lead to a redefinition of the status of human embryo in the face of biotechnological sciences. We hope to find out the proper place for the fertilization of the human embryo, whether in the womb or in the Petri dish outside the womb.


1.4. The Scope Of Study

As we observed above, the discoveries in the modern biotechnologies are too broad. An attempt was made to restrict the topic to human cloning and its ethical implications. Recognizing the fact that humans are not the objects for scientific and biotechnological research(s).

Hence, this work shall not only explore the arguments on human cloning but shall also look at its ethical implications. Since no researcher can boost of thorough exhaustive of its topic, this work does not also claim any exhaustive study of human cloning. It is just a contribution to the contemporary problems in bioethics. Every effort is made to explicitly state the ethical implications of human cloning.


1.5. Methodology

The methods employed in this investigation are exposition and critical analysis. The expository method is used to lay bare the dangers of human cloning, recognize the dangers in the exercise and also draw some implications. On the other hand, the analytic method is employed to explain certain terms in the study. Some of the human cloning arguments are analytically discussed. The relevant information and statistical data for effective discussion of our topic are collected from the library and the Internet.


1.6. The Division Of Work

The work is divided into chapters, and subsections for easy explication. In all, there are five chapters. Chapter one deals with the general introduction; setting the work forth in a methodological framework. In chapter two, the explication of the terms was made. I tried to explain the meaning and the purpose of ethics as the guide to scientific and biotechnological practices in any experimentation that involve human being. Still, the biological and philosophical conceptions of personhood and humanhood are explored so as to furnish us with the true status of the human embryo.

Chapter three is the backbone of the work. It deals with the meaning and historical background of cloning. Also, the reasons, methods and the dangers of human cloning are equally highlighted in this chapter. The focus of chapter four is on the uniqueness of the human person, which trying to x-ray the legal and moral status of unborn member of human family. This aim is realizable through an examination of the diverse debates on human cloning. The whole endeavour is brought to a close in chapter five through a critical evaluation.


Modern Biotechnology And Dignity Of Human Life; An Ethical Analysis


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