When will humans start cloning themselves? The most famous animal ever cloned was Dolly the sheep in 1996 but she was only one of 277 previous failures. Dr Wilmut, who led thee research team at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, thought this the reason why humans would never be cloned. Since then, the technique has improved enormously with many animals having been successfully cloned,
One South Korean firm, Sooam, led by Dr Woo Suk Hwang, having cloned 700 dogs experimentally, must have been pretty certain of 100% success because, last year, it published a competition to clone a pet. (Perhaps it has found the South Korean market to be too small to be exploited commercially?) The winner, Rebecca Smith, from west London, won the competition and her elderly daschund was successfully cloned at no cost.
Hearing of this, Laura Jacques and her partner, Richard Remde, devastated by the death of their favourite dog, Dylan, asked whether he could be cloned from some of Dylan’s dead cells. After some difficulties this was achieved. They were charged a fee of £67,000 ($100,000) fr two cloned puppies.
We can take it that humans can now be successfully cloned either while the donor is still alive (as with Rebecca Smith’s pet) or after death (as with Laura Jacques’ pet). Despite voluminous protests already and possible legislation before too long outlawing human cloning on ‘ethical’ grounds by most advanced governments — that is governments amenable to public pressure — I think we can take it that someone is going to try. Someone like Kim Jong il or Donald Trump might be tempted so that they can somehow be rejuvenated in a follow-on life or perhaps some secretive billionaire.
Someone might want to clone dozens, or hundreds of copies of himself and herself. Unlikely, but possible. In due course, some experienced scientists might be willing to do this. Although the clones would have identical genes to the original donor, they wouldn’t have the same personalities or abilities, because these are as much shaped by the experiences of childhood as by genes. The clones couldn’t possibly be brought up in exactly the same way as the donor. No doubt the donor would be so advised — but still want to go ahead for some reason or other, anyway.
I see no ethical problems about human cloning. Now that we have gained the right to commit suicide if we want, I don’t see why its opposite — seemingly to repeat one’s life all over again (so long as you can afford carers for at least 20 years!) — should be prohibited. I don’t think legislation would be necessary either — too few people will be able to afford it and most of those would not be unhinged enough to want to try it.