The Views of the Holy See on Human CloningTHE HOLY SEEContents
1. The Holy See's Position 1.
The Holy See's Position
2. The biological
background of cloning
3. The possible purposes of human cloning
Cloning on human embryos as a way of making babies
3.2 Cloning human embryos
as a means of producing stem cells
3.3 Cloning human embryos as a tool for
studying genetic and epigenetic processes
4. Human cloning-regardless of
its objective-is contrary to the dignity and integrity of human beings and their
right to life
5. Human cloning done for any purpose contravenes basic precepts
of international law
The Holy See firmly supports
a world-wide and comprehensive ban on human cloning, no matter what techniques
are used and what aims are pursued. Its position is based on (1) biological analysis
of the cloning process and (2) anthropological, social, ethical and legal reflection
on the negative implications that human cloning has on the life, the dignity,
and the rights of the human being.
Based on the biological and anthropological
status of the human embryo and on the fundamental moral and civil rule that it
is illicit to kill an innocent even to bring about a good for society, the Holy
See regards the conceptual distinction between "reproductive" and "therapeutic"
(or "experimental") human cloning as devoid of any ethical and legal ground.
The proposed ban on cloning is not intended to prohibit the use of cloning
techniques to obtain a number of biological entities (molecules, cells, and tissues)
other than human embryos, to generate plants, or to produce non-human embryos
and non-chimaeric (human-animal) embryos.
The Biological Background of Cloning
Within conceptual and experimental contexts, the term "cloning" has
taken on different meanings that in turn presume different technical procedures
as well as different aims. Cloning in itself refers to the production of a biological
entity which is genetically identical or very similar to the one from which it
originated. The term is used to indicate:
a. The production
of a nucleic acid (DNA, RNA), a protein, or a cell line starting from a single
or a few copies of each of these entities. As individual life is concerned, there
are no peculiar ethical and legal questions on these processes.
generation, in an asexual artificial way, of one or more biological individuals
belonging to sexually-reproducing species (plants, animals, and humans). As animals
and humans are concerned, this can be done either by disaggregating or subdividing
an embryo ("embryo splitting") in its early stages of development or through the
transfer of a diploid nucleus of a cell from an embryo, a fetus or an adult individual
to a denucleated oocyte. In the latter case, if successful, after activation the
reconstructed oocyte will develop into an embryo that is capable of further development
to term. Regardless of its destiny, a cloned embryo is a cloned individual of
a given species at the beginning of its life.
3. The Possible Purposes of Human Cloning
Human cloning is the scientific technique by which a human being is generated.
The early but unavoidable result of both embryo splitting and nuclear transfer
cloning is the reproduction of a human being at its embryonic stage of development.
Thus, human cloning and human embryo cloning coincide, and they are identical
with one another. Currently, there are three purposes for which human cloning
can be attempted.
human embryos as a way of making babies
When a cloned
human embryo is implanted in the uterus of the woman to which the generating egg
belongs or of a surrogate mother, the delivery of a newborn baby is expected following
pregnancy, as has been demonstrated by mammalian cloning. This use of human cloning
has been improperly called "reproductive cloning" since its ultimate goal is to
reproduce an adult human being.
Cloning human embryos as a mean of producing stem cells
A second objective of human cloning is to generate embryonic stem cells for
tissue engineering and transplantation or use in cell therapy. Once the human
embryo is cloned, its further development is arrested before implantation (usually
at the blastocyst stage) thereby destroying the further development of the embryo.
The proposed name of this sort of human cloning, i.e. "therapeutic cloning", is
misleading in that it confounds the purpose of the action with the very nature
of the process at stake. Indeed, to produce embryonic stem cells a living human
embryo has been deliberately created and destroyed.
Cloning human embryos as a tool for studying genetic and epigenetic processes
The transfer of a nucleus from a human tissue cell
to an enucleated human oocyte and the study of the embryonic development that
follows may be performed with an aim to understand the genetic and epigenetic
mechanisms of cell growth, potency, differentiation, regeneration and senescence.
This kind of experimental design in cell biology has been called "nucleus reprogramming".
Despite the innocent name, it involves cloning a human embryo for the sole purpose
Cloning Regardless of Its Objectives Is Contrary to the Dignity
of Human Beings and Their Right to Life.
Even if cloning
is pursued with the aim of making a human baby that will mature into adulthood
so that there is no destruction of the human embryo, this activity is still an
affront to the dignity of the human person. As a form of unnatural asexual reproduction,
it represents a radical manipulation of the constitutive relationship and complementarity
that are at the origin of human procreation as a biological act and an exercise
of human love. Cloning objectifies human sexuality and commodifies the bodies
of women. Moreover, women are deprived of their innate dignity by becoming suppliers
of eggs and wombs. The dignity of the person cloned is similarly threatened because
other persons and technological powers exercise undisputed dominion over the duration
of this person´s life or his or her unique identity. Reproductive cloning threatens
biological individuality and imposes the genetic makeup of an already-existing
person on the cloned person. In turn, the cloned person is commandeered by another´s
external and internal profile thereby constituting a violent attack on the clone´s
Cloning accomplished for biomedical research ("nucleus
reprogramming") or producing stem cells ("therapeutic cloning") contributes to
assaults against the dignity and integrity of the human person just addressed
in the context of reproductive cloning. Cloning a human embryo, while intentionally
planning its demise, would institutionalize the deliberate, systemic destruction
of nascent human life in the name of unknown "good" of potential therapy or scientific
discovery. This prospect is repugnant to most people including those who rightly
advocate for advancement in science and medicine. Indeed, nucleus transfer cloning
is by no means the only or superior way to tissue transplantation and cell therapy.
The use of multipotent autologous stem cells of post-natal origin together with
transdifferentiation approaches to tissue regeneration is a very promising alternative
to prevent immune rejection in patients who have received transplants. In addition,
the use of "wild-type" and transgenic animals is another way to disclose cell
biology´s genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Medical experimentation on human
subjects, as pointed out below, is a crime under international law. This prospect
is morally and ethically repugnant even to those who generally favor scientific
research. There currently exist alternative methods of scientific cell research
that accomplish the same potential objectives without the need to clone a human
embryo that will inevitably be faced with destruction. To create life with the
planned intention of destroying it violates the basic norms of moral, ethical,
and legal considerations designed to protect the individuality and integrity of
each human being.
Since the founding of the United Nations, the centrality
of the welfare and protection of all human beings to the work of this organization
is beyond question. The safekeeping of present and succeeding generations of human
beings and the advancement of fundamental human rights is critical to the work
of the UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reiterates the sanctity of
all human life and the compelling need to protect it from harm. In this regard,
Article 3 of the Declaration asserts that everyone has the right to life. With
life comes hope in the future a hope that the Universal Declaration protects
by acknowledging that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. With the
right to life comes liberty and security of the person. To ensure this, the Universal
Declaration confirms that each human being is an entity who is guaranteed a future
filled with the hope of self-determination. To further this end, conditions that
degrade any human being with servile status and deny the fundamental rights to
life and self-determination are reprehensible.
To better understand
these points, it would be prudent to take stock of our human nature at this stage.
Each of us, regardless of nationality, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion, share
the same origin and are destined to develop as members of communities beginning
with the family, the natural and fundamental unit of society. We strive to further
our goals for self, family, and country, but we also, as fellow human beings,
are called to further the common good for the present and future generations across
the globe. We do this to protect all who share and participate in the human condition.
However, if some human beings are destined to serve interests that do not take
account of these fundamental principles of human nature that are at the center
of the UN´s concern, they are reduced to a servile status that denies them the
fundamental claim to life and self-determination guaranteed to all. To clone a
human being regardless of the goal1 is to deny this person´s basic
ontological claim that unites him or her to the rest of the human family. This
human being has no hope in a self-determining future because his or her individuality
will be destroyed to further some research purpose or to enhance the narcissism
of a person who has already existed. In either case, the cloned human being is
reduced to enslavement that contravenes the fundamental nature of human existence
to be free and to live as a unique individual capable of contributing to
the development of the self and society.
Human Cloning Contravenes Basic Precepts of International Law.
Various international instruments acknowledge that the dignity of the human
person is at the center of international law. Regardless of the objective for
which it was done, human cloning conflicts with the international legal norms
that protect human dignity. First of all, international law guarantees the right
to life to all, not just some, human beings. Facilitating the formation of human
beings who are destined for destruction, the intentional destruction of cloned
human beings once the particular research goal is reached, consigning any human
being to an existence of either involuntary servitude or slavery, and being submitted
to involuntary medical and biological experimentation on human beings are morally
wrong and inadmissible. Human cloning also poses great threats to the rule of
law by enabling those responsible for cloning to select and propagate certain
human characteristics based on gender, race, etc. and eliminate others. This would
be akin to the practice of eugenics leading to the institution of a "super race"
and the inevitable discrimination against those born through the natural process.
Human cloning also denies those subjects who come into being for research purposes
international rights to due process and equal protection of the law. In addition,
it must be remembered that state practice and the development of regional treaties
have acknowledged that human cloning conducted for any end is contrary to the
rule of law.
Every process involving
human cloning is in itself a reproductive process in that it generates a human
being at the very beginning of his or her development, i.e., a human embryo. The
Holy See regards the distinction between "reproductive" and "therapeutic" (or
"experimental") cloning as unacceptable by principle since it is devoid of any
ethical and legal ground. This false distinction masks the reality of the creation
of a human being for the purpose of destroying him or her to produce embryonic
stem cell lines or to conduct other experimentation. Therefore, human cloning
should be prohibited in all cases regardless of the aims that are pursued. The
Holy See supports research on stem cells of post-natal origin since this approach
is a sound, promising, and ethical way to achieve tissue transplantation and cell
- Whilst these objectives have previously been discussed,
it is worth reiterating them here. One goal of human cloning focuses on the creation
of an embryo that will not be allowed to come to term. It will be used for medical
research and other objectives that have been labeled as "therapeutic." Another
purpose associated with human cloning is "reproductive," i.e., the creation of
a human embryo that will come to term and replicate the person from whom his or
her genetic material came.
[text distributed by Holy See mission]