Utilitarianism vs. Moral Duty: Ethical Dilemmas of Cloning
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The ethical dilemma of human cloning primarily lies on the debate whether it is right or wrong using as basis, the moral standards set by contemporary society. The issue of cloning a human being was brought to the public’s attention when the news broke out about the successful cloning of a sheep named “Dolly” by Ian Wilmut, a Scottish scientist from Roslin Institute in Scotland on July 5, 1996 (United States National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 2001).
This paper presents the moral dimensions of the controversy of cloning by giving the pro and con sides of the issue as guided by the ideals and principles of Immanuel Kant and J. S. Mill on ethical practices and moral actions. The paper critically evaluates the arguments presented in order to develop an ethical position supported by informed arguments.
Utilitarianism vs. Moral Duty
Utility in JS Mill is often summarily stigmatized as an immoral doctrine by giving it the name of Expediency, and taking advantage of the popular use of that term to contrast it with Principle. But the Expedient, in the sense in which it is opposed to the Right, generally means that which is expedient for the particular interest of the agent himself; as when a minister sacrifices the interests of his country to keep himself in place. When it means anything better than this, it means that which is expedient for some immediate object, some temporary purpose, but which violates a rule whose observance is expedient in a much higher degree. The Expedient, in this sense, instead of being the same thing with the useful, is a branch of the hurtful. Thus, it would often be expedient, for the purpose of getting over some momentary embarrassment, or attaining some object immediately useful to ourselves or others, to tell a lie (Mill, 1977).
According to Mill, we decide how to act by engaging in a cost-benefit analysis to determine the effects of an action on all the people involved, in terms of pleasure and pain. We should act in such a way that we maximize pleasure and minimize pain for the greatest number of people. Note that everyone involved has an equal right to have one's interests considered in the analysis. So we cannot give special preferences to our selfish interests, our own family, our friends, or our local interest groups. The weighing of pleasures and pains can be a fairly complicated process--not a simple, quick, or crude one. For example, we may consider (a) long-range pleasures and pains rather than immediate ones, (b) differing intensities of pleasure and pain, and (c) qualitative differences in pleasures. John Stuart Mill bases his defense of absolute freedom of expression on the value of truth and the imperative to seek it. This approach pointedly fails, of course, to take sufficient account of uncertainty (Gordon, 1997).
In contrast, According to the Principle of Human Dignity led by Immanuel Kant, you cannot sacrifice the worth of human beings for the sake of money, convenience, or others' welfare. Such actions place a finite worth on human beings. In Ellington’s translation (1993), Kant begins the first section by distinguishing between things that are "good without qualification" or "unconditionally good" and things that are good, but only qualifiedly or under certain conditions. For Kant, there is only one imperative that commands us unconditionally and that is the Moral Law (1948): "Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law." This single categorical imperative, however, has three formulations (the first two of which are): First Formulation: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to secure through your will a universal law of nature" Second Formulation: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only"
The examples that Kant offers as a way to demonstrate the use of these formulations in actual situations follows the categories of duties that were used at his time. These breakdown into four Kinds of Duties: Duties Toward Oneself (Perfect: Self-Preservation, Imperfect: Self-Cultivation) and Duties Toward Others (Perfect: Strict Obligation, Imperfect: Beneficence). Following these kinds of duties, Kant's examples are (1) Suicide, (2) Promise-breaking, (3) Squandering Talents, (4) Helping Others (Wood, 199). The universality of Kant’s assumption rests on the premise that is done or said in a given circumstance must always hold in any other similar circumstance. Consequently, it shall also be similar to what others could have done. For instance, when one is sincere or if one becomes happy by telling the truth, the fact that this act is psychological does not merit moral authority (ASB, 2003). A psychological inclination is different from duty- that which is regarded by Kant as more important.
Moral Problems of Cloning
The process with which “Dolly” has been created is called “somatic cell nuclear transfer” where in the doctors take the egg from the donor and remove the nucleus of the egg, creating an enucleated egg. A “cell” which contains the DNA is then taken from the person who is being cloned, and then the enucleated egg is fused together with the cloning subject’s cell using electricity and thus creating an embryo, which is implanted into a surrogate mother (Bonsor, 2001). If the process is successful, then the surrogate mother will give birth to a baby. However, the procedure itself is not perfect because it took more than 277 attempts before Dolly was created as a health viable lamb (Virginia University, 1998). It only imposes that there are possible risks or biological damages to the potential child with the process, which is considered as a “reproductive” cloning because it replicates a copy of a human (Hardin et al, 2001).
The process itself is one of the many reasons why there are people against human cloning who also question the ethics of doing it. Due to these arising conflicts between the advocates and the opponents, then US President Clinton asked the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) to resolve the ethical and legal issues that revolve around the subject of cloning human beings using “somatic cell nuclear transfer” and its potential risks and benefits (United States National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 2001). The great concerns of the opposing group lie on the safety of the process, its consequences and the fear that the clone would not be considered as an “individual” but just a mere “copy” of someone else. However, the advocates of human cloning stated clearly that even if a clone is just a “copy”, it doesn’t mean that he (or she) is not an “individual.” A clone is defined as the delayed identical twin. He may have the same genes as the original but he is still a different person biologically, psychologically, morally and legally (and that even includes even his fingerprints (Wachbroit, 1997).
The advocates firmly believe that the use of cloning human would give medical breakthroughs to find cures of some diseases like cancer, AIDS and other incurable illnesses. They stated the possibility of controlling the growth of cancer cells or discover the cause of other kinds of diseases as well. On the other hand, the opponents fear that if ever the ban on human cloning will be lifted, allowing scientists to freely perform the process and somehow the process becomes successful, the desire to manipulate or control the clones will most likely happen. These musings however are mostly speculations. However, with so much controversy with regard to the issue, no one can really tell. The “fears” of the opponents and the “beneficial reasons” of the advocates have turned a debatable subject into the more complicated issue of whether cloning a human being is right or wrong. Where in fact the ethical dilemma is not hard to understand at all, for it’s just that the factors involving the issue - the risks, consequences, reasons, intentions and benefits of human cloning - are what makes it hard for an individual to comprehend its ethics and legality.
The opponents believe that it is “morally wrong” because what they are trying to do is making a life out of a scientific procedure which is still morally unacceptable today. In other words, scientists are trying to “play God”. No matter if we have different religions or beliefs, we have been brought up believing that the only provider of life is none other than God himself. Conversely, the advocates of human cloning argue that what they are trying to do is to seek beneficial opportunities for the human race through the use of science and technology – among them, finding cures to some diseases with “therapeutic” cloning, which would intentionally destroy newly created embryonic cells of the cloned humans for other research projects (Sharma et al, 2006). The intention of this kind of research is to find cures for some diseases using the embryonic cells of the cloned humans which only mean killing eventually the newly created life of the embryo for the purpose of saving ill patients.
The morally questionable issue is the process itself and how cheap the doctors value the life that is formed in that embryo. Opponents to cloning argue that no matter if that is only a cell that they are willing to sacrifice, it has already a life that has a right of existence. Considering that cloning a human could become legal and likewise be morally acceptable sooner in human society, then how could we possibly protect the rights and dignity of the cloned humans, if today we can’t even give them the rights to live when they are being used as experiments in medical researches. Hence, the major problem that would threaten the creation of human clones is anchored on the process itself and on the greater risks and consequences of the procedure. Nowadays, the technology in human cloning is still considered to be premature and might impose a lot of imperfections on the research and experiments.
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Bonsor, K. (2001). How Will Human Cloning Work. How Stuff Works. Available at <http://www.howstuffworks.com/human-cloning4.htm>. Retrieved 12 April 2001.
Gordon, J. (1997) ‘John Stuart Mill and the "marketplace of ideas"’. Social Theory and Practice, vol. 23.
Hardin, C., Pinczes, J., Riell, A., Presutti,D., Miller, M., and Robertson, D. (2001) Cloning, Gene Expression and Protein Purification. Oxford University Press, NY
Kant, I. (1993). Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: With on a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns. Hackett Pub Co; 3rd edition, June 1993 (Translator James Ellington).
Kant, I. (1948). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Routledge. Translator, H J Paton.
Mill, J. S. (1977). On Liberty, in Collected Work of John Stuart Mill. University of Toronto Press, vol. 18, pp. pp. 238-39.
Sharma, J., Y. Zhong, F. Dong, J. M. Piper, G. Wang, and G. Zhong (2006). ‘Profiling of Human Antibody Responses to Chlamydia trachomatis Urogenital Tract Infection Using Microplates Arrayed with 156 Chlamydial FusionProteins’. Infection Immunology, vol. 74, pp. 1490-1499.
United States National Bioethics Advisory Commission (2001) Cloning Fact Sheet: Reproductive Cloning, Available at: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml Retrieved April 18, 2006
University of Virginia. (1998). Human Cloning: The Process. Available at: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~jones/tmp352/projects98/group1/how.htm Retrieved January 9, 2000.
Wachbroit, R. (1997). Human Cloning Isn’t as Scary as it Sounds. The Washington Post. Available at: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/science/cloning/cloning6.htm> Retrieved October 3, 2001.
Wood, A. (1999). Kant's Ethical Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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