CMDA's The Point

Cloning Dollars

September 27, 2018
New Chinese Study Opens Ethical Can of Worms

by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Back when color copiers had just been developed, a sociopathic teenager I knew decided he could make a few quick bucks. He got a group of friends to pool their funds, bought the latest copier and started cloning local currency. As you can imagine, even in a developing country, they were soon found out and got into big trouble for their counterfeiting.

Today, cloning dollars is a legal and lucrative profession for Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, the Korean researcher who claimed he had successfully cloned a human embryo in the journal Science in 2004 while he was a faculty member at the prestigious Seoul National University. By 2006, he had been kicked out of his university when their investigation revealed he had fabricated evidence, embezzled government finds and paid female researchers in his own lab for their eggs. He tearfully apologized at his trial and sentenced to two years in prison, but then he was set free because of his remorse.

You would think that would be the end of the story, but he and his staff in his castle-like lab clone dogs for pet owners distraught over losing their animals. He might as well have been cloning greenbacks. The cost is $100,000, so his clients are movie stars, Middle Eastern royalty and billionaires like John Sperling, the founder of Phoenix University.

Cloning is an extremely lucrative business that has become more efficient. The first dog cloned in 2005 took the creation of 1,000 embryos and the uteruses of 100 dogs. With manufacturing “know how,” Hwang today claims he can accomplish it with three mommy dogs, each with multiple implanted embryos. The rate-limiting steps are getting the dog oocytes, but he guarantees his customers they will receive their cloned dog within five months after submitting tissue.

One of his next projects is to clone a wooly mammoth using frozen tissue harvested from wooly mammoth frozen for thousands of years that was recently found in Siberia. That may be more lucrative than the up to $100 million dollars he has made from cloning 1,000 dogs. With frozen tissue snippets from enough species, he could open his own Jurassic Park.

But, of course, that is not the main issue, unless you are an animal rights activist.

If someone will pay $100,000 for a copy of their dog, how much will they pay to “replace” their deceased child or to recreate themselves with the hope of one day downloading their brain into their clone someday? As cloning efficiency increases, it is only a matter of time. Scientists in China said they will be able to clone a human being after they successful created two long-tailed macaques named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua earlier this year.

Of course, it will be justified as a reproductive right, which today trumps all other considerations. Proponents will claim again that the government has no right to regulate science, and with research dollars to further enhance safety, it will be a great benefit to mankind. I can already hear scientists telling the media that if they don’t do it first, scientists in other countries will. “Are we going to let ‘them’ get ahead of us?” But the bottom line reason, the strong undertow below the surface, will be the money to be made.

As Christians, first we need to know what the Bible says:

  • Human life is sacred because we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26; 9:6).
  • God’s design is for procreation, not creation (Mark 10:6-9; Genesis 4:1).
  • God planned the family to bear and nurture children (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Psalm 127:3).

Morally and ethically:

  • There is an intrinsic value of human life. Cloning will cause many embryonic humans to die before birth as they fail to implant or miscarriage.
  • Using human life as a means to an end is immoral. Clones are created not for their own worth but the worth imputed to them for being like an “other.”
  • Human cloning robs the person of the right to their unique individual identity.
  • Human cloning is human commodification.

There are scientific reasons that human cloning should be banned worldwide.

  • There is a high risk of mutations as a result of environmental factors and errors in replications of genes. For example, a mucosal cell may have many mutations (like scratches on a CD) that are not seen (heard) because only a small portion of its genetic material is being expressed (like playing only one track of a CD). When the cell is used to clone, all of the genes are once again expressed (like playing the entire CD).
  • There will be malformations. Large offspring syndrome (LOS) appears in perhaps 30 to 40 percent of cloned animals. LOS results in lung, brain, liver, tongue, heart and other defects that often lead to early death. Cloned animals often have malformed placentas.
  • There will be an affect on genetic diversity in the long run if large scale cloning is done.

Human cloning will cause societal issues.

  • Who will be the biological parents of a cloned child? The person they are cloned from? That person is not their mother or father but their twin. Is it the woman who donated the oocyte? She hasn’t given them any DNA. Is it the person or persons who raised them?
  • How do you deal with the lineage of a clone? What is their legal status? Can they inherit? Do they need to be adopted? How do they fit in a family structure? They will be dislocated from a family tree. A whole new set of clone laws will need to be developed.
  • It will be more important than ever to protect your DNA if you’re famous or admired so someone doesn’t steal your comb or toothbrush and genetically duplicate you without your permission. Imagine the news coverage when someone claims their son is the genetic twin of Michael Jordan. Humans will need copyright laws!

No prohibition is 100 percent successful, but laws do limit evil. Does our society, as well as other societies, have the foresight and moral will to limit human cloning? I fear not, when scientists can clone dollars.

Related Resources
CMDA’s Position Statement on Human Cloning
CMDA’s Position Statement on Genetic Information and Manipulation Technologies
Christian Bioethics by C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, and D. Joy Riley, MD

David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

About David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. David Stevens, author of Jesus, MD, Beyond Medicine and co-author of Leadership Proverbs and Servant Leadership and serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a national organization of Christian healthcare professionals that seeks to change hearts in healthcare. Founded in 1931, CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas and domestic mission projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical and dental schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; holds marriage and family conferences; provides missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. At CMDA, Dr. Stevens has helped develop an evangelism training program that teaches thousands of healthcare professionals how to share their faith in a healthcare setting. He was a catalyst for starting the Global Missions Healthcare Conference, trains new healthcare missionaries three times a year and annually leads a summit for executives of mission organization doing healthcare ministry. He has also helped launch a nationwide network of community-based ministries that provide on-site discipleship, fellowship and outreach opportunities for local healthcare professionals and students. As a leading spokesman for Christian healthcare professionals, Dr. Stevens has conducted thousands of media interviews, including NBC's Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC-World Television, Newsweek, JAMA, USA Today, CNN Sunday Morning, CNN News Site and National Public Radio. He has also appeared on FOX Family Channel, PAX-Television, Tech TV, The Odyssey Channel, America's Health Network and many other national outlets. He has written many book chapters and magazine articles. Prior to becoming a Zondervan author, he wrote a regular health column for the Promise Keepers' New Man magazine and served on the editorial board of Christian Single magazine. Dr. Stevens is also heard as host of the CMDA Healthwise Public Service Announcements, which address general health and bioethical issues and airs on radio stations nationwide. CMDA members hear him as the host of the popular Christian Doctor’s Digest audio magazine, which has featured national leaders such as Luis Lugo, Jim Cymbala, Newt Gingrich, John Stonestreet and Kay Arthur. Prior to his service with CMDA, Dr. Stevens served as director of World Medical Mission. In Somalia, Dr. Stevens led an emergency medical mission that treated 45,000 suffering Somalis in the midst of war. In the Sudan, medical teams under his leadership treated more than 25,000 villagers to stop the spread of an epidemic. Dr. Stevens has seen firsthand how meeting the physical needs of patients provides opportunities to meet their spiritual needs—by introducing them to God’s love through a relationship with Jesus Christ. From 1981 to 1991, Dr. Stevens was a missionary doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya where he served as Medical Superintendent and then Exeuctive Officer. He helped to develop Tenwek from a bush hospital to one of the most outstanding mission facilities in the world. At Tenwek, he directed a $4 million development plan, secured the installation of an $850,000 hydroelectric plant, oversaw the start of a nursing school and doubled the size of the hospital. The community healthcare and development programs he designed at Tenwek are currently reaching more than one million Kenyans and serve as an example of what medical outreach in the developing world can accomplish. Dr. Stevens’ experiences provide rich illustrations for inspirational and educational presentations at seminars, conferences and churches. His topics include missions and evangelism, spiritual commitment and growth, bioethics and other medically and spiritually related subjects. Dr. Stevens holds degrees from Asbury University and is an AOA graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2002 and served on the boards of World Gospel Mission and Asbury University. He has regularly taught at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations' educational seminars for missionary physicians and dentists in Kenya, Malaysia and other forums. He is a Fellow of the Biotechnology Policy Council of the Wilberforce Forum and helped found the National Embryo Donation Center. Dr. Stevens and his wife Jody have a son, Jason, and two daughters, Jessica and Stacy, and nine grandchildren, all of who are involved in domestic or international healthcare ministry.

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