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Introduction


In terms of ethics, technology should be regarded as neutral. It is neither bad nor good. It is our use and our perceptions that can create ethical issues regarding technology and new technological advancements. For we are the creators of technology, how we use new devices to better our lives is left up to us. This goes along the principle that we are not governed by technology, yet we create technology and all the possible implications that goes along with it. In The Age of Egocasting, Christine Rosen swiftly summarises our role and relationship in the development and use of modern technology:
"We haven’t become more like machines. We’ve made the machines more like us. In the process we are encouraging the flourishing of some of our less attractive human tendencies: for passive spectacle; for constant, escapist fantasy; for excesses of consumption. These impulses are age-old, of course, but they are now fantastically easy to satisfy. Instead of attending a bear-baiting, we can TiVo the wrestling match. From the remote control to TiVo and iPod, we have crafted technologies that are superbly capable of giving us what we want. Our pleasure at exercising control over what we hear, what we see, and what we read is not intrinsically dangerous. But an unwillingness to recognize the potential excesses of this power—egocasting, fetishization, a vast cultural impatience, and the triumph of individual choice over all critical standards—is perilous indeed."

(Rosen 2005).

Conversely, there are other views on this matter, such as technological determinism. It is the idea in which technology is the driving force for shaping our culture, our beliefs, and our lives. Yet, machines are merely servants to those who create them. Many new technologies seem to hold all the answers in bettering our lives. It is society’s responsibility to consider how some technologies will affect us.

“Technology is absolutely neutral and the same microprocessors [can] be used for good or evil. The determination of that really comes through what the individual, what the collective group of individuals, align themselves with. What our values are, what priorities we have in life, I think that’s what the real question is, not the technology.”

- Lasch, C. The Degradation of the Practical Arts. The Information Society Reader. Chapter 19:p 287.

Ethical Issues: The Technology of Cochlear Implants


Our oral culture uses voice and rhetoric to convey messages to one another, so does the deaf culture with their use of hand gestures. Signing has substituted the voice as a tool for communication. In establishing this way of communication, the hearing impaired have created a strong community through celebrating their impairment by embracing the uniqueness of the culture. However, as the Post-modern era would have it, technology has discovered a way to eradicate this impairment entirely, serving as a medical phenomenon for many, yet a threat to a dynamic culture for some. This phenomenon is known as a cochlear implant. This device has become so efficient and has proven successful in many cases that if implanted at a very young age (when the ability to learn spoken language is the greatest), many have been able to hear and speak at the same level of progression as any other child.

Their concern that cochlear implant surgery could lead to the extinction of a culture which exudes so much hope and strength is valid, but the culture of the deaf is defined by an alternative way of communication - not by the individual. Although, a deaf child eventually learns to adapt to the world around them, the difficulties of everyday life such as communication, especially with those who are not deaf, education, career, and relationships will be strained. From the perspective of the deaf community, by finding alternative means of communications, they do not lack any capabilities of those who hear, they merely see the world differently. With the introduction of this new device, deaf parents of deaf children fear that the child's understanding of their family and culture will be lost. Many deaf parents do not consider their situation as impairment on their life, it is not a hindrance on the quality of their lifestyle, and assumes that it would be a beneficial opportunity for the child as well.

In considering that the procedure itself is still progressing, and as with any other procedure, that risks are involved as the results among patients may differ. Also, once the device is implemented, the child must be continually exposed to an environment saturated with speech and language to ensure that they would not revert to the use of sign language as a means to communicate. This causes rifts in family relationships. There is always a risk in any medical treatment and procedure, but the greater misfortune lies in the opportunity that was never explored by the parents to give their children a chance to exceed their assumptions and expectations when given the chance.

Ethical Issues: Human Cloning


A clone is "a genetic replica, sharing the superficial and silent characteristics of the donor" (Lambert & Kinsley 2005). However, in application, thus far, attempts have not fully met this definition. In the example of Dolly, the world's first mammalian clone, there were significant phenotype differences indicating that she was not a complete reproduction of her parent (Lambert & Kinsley 2005).

Human cloning today can be seperated into two types: reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning is the more 'known' and controversial type of cloning, whch includes "the replacement of the donor egg nucleus with DNA from an adult cell...and transplanted into a uterus so that it can develop into an organism" (Lambert & Kinsley 2005). It has been shown time and time again that the donor and the clone share certain similar components, but not complete replicas are possible. Scientists infer that "in the case of cloning an organism for an adult, the unique experiences that shaped the brain of the organism cannot be recreated in its clone. They are lost" (Lambert & Kinsley 2005). We have to realise that identical (monozygotic) twins are in essence natural clones. And it is evident that even when they are raised in the same household, same environment and obviously at the same time, there are still many individual differences that exist between them. Therefore, those that believe they can recreate themselves, pets and others are "fundamentally missing the point: how does one re-create in the clone those personal memories that make up the personality fo the donor individual, when the memories are exclusivce and irreproducible?" (Lambert & Kinsley 2005).

Theraputic cloning refers to the technology supporting the replacement of degenerated cells, such as the degenerated substantia nigra cells that reside in patients with Parkinson's disease for example. Therapeutic cloning is similar to reproductive cloning, however the purpose is not for the cell to develop into an organism, but rather aid those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases by replacing the existing dead or degenerating cells with the new cells. Because the cells at the inital stage are undifferentiated, they can be assigned or guided to which type of cell they are to develop into. The process involves the cells being prodded into the development of specific cells to replace the degenerating mass.

With the introduction or suggestion of any new technology, there are opponents, advocates and skeptics. The overall implication and use of the technology is usually defined by those who utilise the technology for their means. As we see with other technology, the use and correspondingly, misuse, of these ambiguous, unrestricted applications lend themselves to intense ethical debates throughout the lifecycle of the technology.

Pertaining to genetic coloning, some opponents beleive that this technology is not needed in our society. There really is no compelling reason why we should use human cloning, yet there are countless reasons why we should not.

Cloning is unethical because it is a potentially harmful experiment on future persons. In fact, Ian Wilmut, one of co-creators of Dolly, has even said that, "human cloning projects would be criminally irresponsible. Cloning technology is still in its early stages, and nearly 98 percent of cloning efforts end in failure. The embryos are either not suitable for implanting into the uterus or they die sometime during gestation or shortly after birth" (How Stuff Works). An advocate could argue, albeit far reaching in lieu of current technology, but nonetheless a logical objection to this is that scientists will be able to pick out defective embryos before they are implanted into the mother.

Another aspect of cloning that will affect us socially, culturally and economically pertains to the issue of a clone's identity. The genotype and the appearance would be identical to another human being and therefore, the clone faces comparison to the original and a lifelong struggle of determining his/her own uniqueness.

Further, in the wrong hands of the many capitalists in our world today, human cloning could possibly be a step towards using procreation as a form of manufacturing. There is already exists a market for in vitro fertilization and genetic testing for embryos. With cloning it is the human that chooses the entire genetic blueprint. Even though the development of the child is still through natural processes, we would still be creating something man made. In natural reproduction we create a human like us, yet in clonal reproduction we choose to create an exact replica, therefore nature has been substituted by the power of science. In this way we have created children to be artifacts instead of unique beings.

Finally the practice of cloning would change the parent and child relationship. It causes huge issues with whom the child is, are they really your child if they do not contain any of your genes? To who does this child rightfully belong to, the one who was the surrogate and carried the child, or the one who donated their genes? So many questions arise and the whole system and ideas surrounding procreation would be greatly changed. Further, the process of human cloning compromises the relationship of women and children, or mother and baby, by using women as the experimental basis for developing the human clone; for without them, it would not yet be possible to create a human replica (Genetics and Society). We cannot even comprehend all the possible issues surrounding this technological advancement; therefore why explore such a dangerous procedure that holds the possibility of changing our world for the worst. In the words of Paul Ramsey: “The good things that men do can be made complete only by the things they refuse to do.” (Leon R. Kass. Cloning of Human beings. Biomedical Ethics).

There is a strong and compelling arguement against cloning, especially in its rudimentary stage. However, just as it is easy to skeptically forecast the negative possibilites of genetic cloning, advantageous proponents also exist and can be projected. The debate is only beginning. With the aggressive genetic cloning research that is going on, only time will tell what new dilemmas we will face in this cloning controversy. Genetic cloning is one of the most important societal ethical issues today.

Ethical Issues: Technology for Stem Cell Research


A stem cell, which is an undifferentiated cell, has the ability to become a specialized cell and can divide without limit, acting as a repair system for the body (national institutes of health). This useful ability has the propensity to effect medical research, which could potentially help us cure many diseases with the knowledge of how these cells develop. The potential usage of human embryonic stem cells has stirred much debate in its ethical implications. These cells have been derived from the embryo through the use of in vitro fertilization.

Embryonic stem cells are difficult to get a hold of, and would be breaking the law in most countries. Also they are sometimes hard to control, producing unexpected results and forming cancerous growths (Dixon, P). Other methods include, “combining an adult human cell with a human egg from which the nucleus has been removed,” (Dixon, P). With these methods and technologies come highly ethical issues including the view that every embryo is a potential human being.

Recently there has been some prospects in an alternative method to embryonic stem cell research. It has now been found that even in children and adult cells have the capacity to generate growth in various tissues (Dixon, P). Theoretically since most cells contain the entire genome, then cells can make any tissue. Yet we cannot ignore the fact that a lot of the genes are turned off. There could be huge advantages to somehow being able to use our own stem cells when needed. If this were possible there would be no ethical issues, no rejection of tissue and no possibility of cancer. With such huge ethical implications of using embryonic stem cells, we may see a shift in biotechnology to discover ways in which utilizing adult cells or even umbilical cord cells.

We must still consider what the moral status is of the embryo. The way in which we define what an embryo, is the way that we can attempt to provide some clear distinction on its status and thus on the ethical issues of its use. Also we must consider ethical issues surrounding the actual technologies used in embryonic research. Does an embryo have a capacity to be harmed in any way? If so what does this imply by the technologies used to freeze and store embryos? If we look at an embryo as a potential person, do we not in some way harm this potential person, by using it for our own means? Or should we consider an embryo to be void of human existence, which therefore we should have no reason not to use it for the potential good of helping human kind?

There have been some arguments to the moral status of an embryo. If the parents give consent, is there then no ethical implication in disregarding an early embryo, especially when that embryo is not kept beyond the point in which it forms a brain and nervous system. Should there possibly be a time limit on its use in order to control for the formation of a brain and nervous system. There are also some implications in freezing eggs, as the process holds some risk in the formation of abnormalities. Therefore would it be more beneficial to freeze eggs? Yet it has also been found that even this technique is not void of ethical problems, as to freeze and egg it must be stripped of its outer layer in order to take up a chemical. But this technique still posses a risk to the egg (Singer, P. 540). We can see how many issues arrive with merely the process of storing and using eggs, not to mention the actual status of an embryo and its potential for becoming human. Therefore we must always look into the future and weigh the costs and benefits to some of the new technologies that we at first perceive to improve our lives. As it may be seen to hold some huge advantages to us we must consider the price we are willing to pay for letting science take over our moral obligations. We are constantly re-evaluating our beliefs as these new technologies seem to hold all the answers for the betterment of human beings. The question is what are we willing to lose in the gain of scientific discovery and is it worth that loss?

Works Cited



Kass, Leon R. Cloning of Human Beings. from Biomedical Ethics, 5th edition.

Lambert, K.G., and Kinsley, C.H. (2005). Clinical neuroscience. New York: Worth Publishers, pp221-222.

Mappes, T. and Degrazia, D. Biomedical Ethics, 5th edition. McGraw-Hill: 2001.

Nussbaum, Martha C. Human capabilities, Female Human Beings. from Women Culture and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities (Nussbaum, M. & Glover, J. ed), Pp. 61-104, Oxford University Press: 1995.

Purdy, Laura M. Genetics and Reproductive Risks: Can Having a Child be Immoral? from Biomedical Ethics, 5th edition. Laura M. Purdy: 1994.

Rosen, C. "The age of egocasting," The New Atlantis, Number 7, Fall 2004/Winter 2005, pp 51-72. Available online at http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/7/rosen.htm.

Singer, P. Creating Embryos. from Biomedical Ethics, 5th edition.

National Institutes of Health. Online at http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/ accessed on February 26th, 2006

Cochlear Implants and Bacterial Meningitis. www.fda.gov/fdac/features/ 2003/603_implant.html

Dixon, P. Future of Stem Cell Research: Rapid Progress. Online at http://www.globalchange.com/stemcells2.htm accessed on February 26th, 2006.

Genetics and Society

How Stuff Works
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Related Sites


http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-1.html

http://ethics.acusd.edu/index.asp

http://www.globalchange.com/clonlink.htm

http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/ethicalperspectives/kvamme.html