Dan Brock (1998)

“Cloning Human Beings:

An Assessment of the Ethical Issues Pro and Con”



2.      One: Rights (to clone or not to be cloned)

         a.      Rights give a presumptive claim that typically can’t be overridden because the benefits of doing so out weight costs

         b.      Rights can be overridden when benefits of so doing are extreme or when they conflict with other rights

3.      Two: Benefits of cloning (or not cloning) outweigh costs (consequentiailst argument)





         a.      Like freedom to use contraceptives and assisted reproductive technologies (=ARTs)

6.      Interests this right supports

         a.      For some, cloning could be only way to procreate and retain biological tie to child

                   i.       Is desire for biological tie to child legitimate?

                   ii.      It is a desire we respect with other ARTs

                   iii.     Adoption alternative lacks this tie

         b.      Cloning is one way to exercise interest/right to shape what kind of children one has

                   i.       Is this a legitimate interest?

                   ii.      Many other ways we shape children: choice of partners, genetic test of fetuses, inculcation of values

                   iii.     Parents have substantial discretion to shape persons their children become (via education and child rearing)

                            (1)    Why isn’t cloning another one of these?

                            (2)    Does rearing a child shape the child more than would cloning?

7.      How strong are parent’s rights of repro freedom?

         a.      Law now allows others to reproduce when it is certain their children will have genetic-based diseases

                   i.       E.g., mentally disabled people having children, or those with heritable genetic diseases

         b.      In these cases, parents rights of reproductive freedom seems to outweigh others’ belief that this is wrong

         c.      A cloned child is likely to be harmed much less

8.      Conclusion: There is a presumptive right to clone

         a.      Right of reproductive freedom includes right to select means of reproduction and right to select kind of children and thus includes right to clone

         b.      A valid right, but overrideable (if harms are serious or stronger conflicting rights exist)



10.    Individual benefits

         a.      One: A way to relieve infertility

         b.      Two: Avoid transmitting hereditary diseases to offspring (and not want 3rd party sperm/egg)

         c.      Three: To make a later twin for use as donor of organs/tissues

                   i.       Ayalas case: Parents conceived a child in hopes of getting source of bone marrow for daughter with Leukemia

                   ii.      One can use another as a means and love/respect him/her as well

                   iii.     Law allows others to procreate with less worthy motives than this

                   iv.     Mills on “Morally Problematic Reasons for Having Children”

         d.      Four: To clone person with special meaning (e.g., child who died)

                   i.       Might help parents accept death and move on

                   ii.      Involves deep confusion--idea of genetic determinism: that genes totally determine what a person becomes and accomplishes

                            (1)    But people are influenced by genes, environment, choices, particular historical relations with others

                            (2)    Clone would be a different child

11.    Social benefits

         a.      Five: To duplicate individuals of great talent, genius, character (Mozart, Einstein, Gandhi)

                   i.       Based on confusion of genetic determinism as would not replicate capacities much less accomplishments of these people (much depends on historical circumstances)

                   ii.      Cloning could produced individuals with exceptional capacities and this is a reasonable ground for cloning

                   iii.     Worries for abuse: Whose standards of greatness? Who controls technology for social benefit? Some use it for private benefit?

12.    Conclusion: Cloning does not seem to promise great or unique benefits

         a.      But the defense of cloning based on right of reproductive freedom still has power



14.    DOES CLONING VIOLATE RIGHTS? (Considers 3; Brock thinks none convincing)

15.    One: Violate right to a unique identity (=unique unrepeated genome?)?

         a.      Earlier twin violates this right?

         b.      What about identical twins? Are parents who have identical twins violating this right? Not plausible. No such right exists.

         c.      That unique identity requires unrepeated genome falsely assumes genetic determinism

         d.      Whether or not right to unique identity exists, cloning doesn’t undermine it

16.    Two: Right of ignorance violated?

         a.      Later twin sees what earlier twin is like and it exerts undue influence on him; haunts him, undermines spontaneous creation of own future

         b.      Again, power of objection comes from false belief (in genetic determinism) that having same genome restricts freedom to create a different self

         c.      Also, family environment also shapes child’s development

                   i.       Younger brother can’t claim older brother undermines his ability to make own life

                   ii.      Assuming env. is as shaping as genes; Also, being shaped by family environment is being shaped by a group and not one individual; Genes determine at beginning with no opening, no chance for change in that dimension, with env shaping, future is always open

17.    Three: Right to an open future violated?

         a.      We have obligation to raise children in way not close off reasonable range of alternatives

         b.      But cloning doesn’t do this; future is still open

         c.      Twin’s belief that her future is determined is based on false belief in genetic determinism; may cause her harm but not violating a right to open future

18.    Conclusion: Cloning does not violate any of these rights



20.    Individual harms

         a.      One: Later twin suffer psychological distress?

                   i.       Harm speculative though possible

                   ii.      This provides reason for sharply limits on # of clones produced from one individual

         21.    Two: Human cloning carries unacceptable (physical) risks to clone

                   i.       This is true now (e.g., cloned from old cell with mutations, clone prone to cancer?).

                   ii.      Need to do further research before ethical to cone humans


         b.      Partif’s non-identity problem as reason for claiming such harms not possible and Brock’s response to it

                   i.       Only way for a twin to avoid psychological harm is never to be cloned/exist

                   ii.      Assuming clone’s life is worth living,

                   iii.     Later twin not harmed by being given a life with psychological or physical burdens, as alternative is to never exist and this is worse

                   iv.     If later twin is not harmed by being created with these burdens, how could she be wronged?

                   v.      If twin not wronged, what is wrong being done by cloning?

         c.      Brock’s reply non-identity problem

                   i.       Choosing to create later twin with serious psychological problems--instead of a different person without these problems–is morally wrong, even if it does not harm or wrong the twin

                   ii.      Can be wrongs without harming or wronging an individual

                   iii.     It is as morally wrong as giving these psychological harms to an already existing person (but why?)


22.    Social harms

23.    Three: Cloning lessens worth of individuals and diminishes respect for human life

         a.      People will be viewed as replaceable

                   i.       But clone is not a replacement (since genetic determinism not true)

                   ii.      Parents of dying child would be foolish to not grieve because child can be cloned

         b.      People will become to be seen as manufactured, hand-made (Kass’ objection)

                   i.       It is a mistake to think that clone is less valuable as made by cloning instead of sex

                   ii.      It is the nature of the being, not how she was made that is/should be source of its value

                   iii.     It is not at all obvious that source/genesis of a being isn’t relevant to its value (Examples: Ring made from bone of person killed to make it; cow’s origin vs grizzly’s relevant to our evaluation of them)

                   iv.     Manufacturing humans could lead to decreased respect in process of procreation and people themselves

                            (1)    But cloning isn’t manufacturing from scratch

24.    Four: Humans might be cloned for financial gain

         a.      Moral consensus against commercial market in embryos, cloned or not, could be legally enforced

25.    Five: Cloning might be used by some for immoral purposes (cloned individuals with limited abilities who are happy to do menial work)

         a.      This would be to immorally use such individuals as tools; but this could and should be outlawed


26.    Conclusion: Ethical pros and cons are sufficiently balanced/uncertain that no decisive case for or against permitting or engaging in cloning

         a.      Although access to cloning can be plausibly brought within a moral right to reproductive freedom, its potential legitimate uses are few and don’t promise substantial benefits

         b.      Neither is human cloning a violation of rights

         c.      Cloning does risk some significant individual/social harms, though most are based on common confusion about genetic determinism

         d.      Because the potential harms of cloning are still speculative, they are not sufficient to warrant complete legal prohibition in research or the later use of cloning, if and when it is proven safe

         e.      Moral concerns about uses and effects of cloning are legitimate and show need for public oversight or research and for public debate before cloning is used on people

Study questions on Brock’s, Cloning Human Beings


1.         What is a right? Can rights be overridden by benefits according to Brock?

2.         What is the moral right that supports cloning, according to Brock? What are the interests Brock identifies that supports this right and are these legitimate interests? Do you support this right? Why or why not? Does Brock?

3.         Is the desire for a biological tie to a child a legitimate one? Do parents have a right to shape what kind of people their children will be?

4.         How strong is the right of reproductive freedom?

5.         What are some of the individual (and social) benefits to cloning Brock identifies? Do these provide good reasons for cloning?

6.         What is “genetic determinism?” Does Brock accept this idea? How does he think it is involved in the thinking of those who want to clone a dead child that had special meaning to parents?

7.         Could cloning be successfully used to create another Mozart or Einstein?

8.         Can one use another as a means and also love and respect them? Apply your answer to the “Ayala case” (explain what happened in this case).

9.         What are the three rights that Brock considers cloning might violate? Does he think cloning would violate any of these rights? What do you think and why?

10.       Discuss whether there is a right to a unique identity and whether or not cloning would violate it.

11.       Do people have a right to ignorance about their future and does cloning violate this right? Do people have a right to an open future and does cloning violate this right?

12.       What are some of the possible individual harms of cloning and how does Brock respond to these harms.

13.       Explain why (according to Parfit’s “non-identity problem”) cloning a person cannot harm her. What is Brock’s response to this claim?

14.       Can acts be wrong even if they do not harm anyone?

15.       Does cloning lessen worth of individuals and diminish respect for human life, perhaps because they are now seen as manufactured, hand-made?

16.       Is how something came into being ever relevant to assessing its value or is only the beings nature relevant to its value?

17.       What is Brock’s overall assessment about the morality of cloning? Do you agree?