VenueReed Hall, University of Exeter
These two events covered the science behind the technique of human reproductive cloning, giving sixth form biology and sociology students the background into the perils as well as the potentials of the current technology. The workshop will presented a case study in which a young woman has tragically lost her son and requests a clone. The students were asked to put themselves in the role of decision makers, arguing for and against this specific case of cloning, using utilitarian principles
The presentations offered an insight into the philosophical frameworks that have been employed by ethicists in reproductive debates. These included a basic introduction to the utilitarian principles of John Stuart Mill, the teachings of Immanuel Kant concerning antonomy and the Aristotelian view of a person as being ‘good’ and the concepts of prudence, restraint courage, & justice. This enabled students to chose a basic principle from which they were invited to frame their answer. A presentation on the science of cloning followed explaining the technique of nuclear transfer and the applications of reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. This also included an brief look at some of the medical problems that the process has produced.
The students were given case study material well in advance of the workshop and after the presentations they were divided into groups. They were given roles within an ethics commission, either as social psychologists, theologians, or lawyers. They then had to consider the case study in the light of the ethical questions from the perspective of their group. So the social psychologist were asked to think about the possible benefits and problems for the individuals involved and and society at large, the ethicists and theologians thought about whether there are any moral objections to the process, or whether it can be justified. The laywers questioned whether the process needed regulation, and if not why not. The groups were asked to work from the point of view of a perfect technology, i.e. iignoring the problems outlined in the earlier talk.
A number of questions were to be addressed by the students as a result of the workshop, which mirrored the debate in the real world including:
- What is an individual? Can identical twins be considered as clones?
- What would the implications of being a clone be for the clones themselves?
- Who has the right to clone themselves and why?
- What legislation, if any, should be introduced to regulate the introduction of cloning If the legislation is too rigorous, will cloning go underground?
- Who could benefit by cloning themselves, and does the technology have the potential to lead to discrimination.
The groups all concluded that human reproductive cloning should be banned. This was followed by a discussion and an outline of the current UK law, with an explanation of how science becomes policy via ethical panels such as the one the students had formed.