Re: spare parts and cloning ethics

Hal Finney (
Sat, 1 Mar 1997 07:38:20 -0800

From: "J. de Lyser" <>
> Wouldn't it be possible (theoretically) and maybe ethically more acceptable
> to:
> A) Make sure a clone doesn't develop a brain BEFORE fertilization, by
> taking out certain genes ?

I don't think we know enough about the human genome to do this. As was
mentioned, you don't want to remove the whole brain, just the "higher level"
parts that (we hope) are necessary for consciousness. The fear that we
may somehow be creating a person who experiences terrible suffering from
our manipulations may be enough to retard experiments along these lines.

> B) Grow just an arm or body part from specialized tissue cells ?

Cloning technology by itself will not accomplish this. Conceivably we
could eventually learn to rip a proto-arm off a cloned embryo, hook it
up to a tiny little blood supply, and grow an arm, without growing the
rest of the body. It's not clear that this would work, though.

> Ofcourse growing a clone without a brain, cutting off his leg and then
> leaving it? alive for future spare parts would also seem very unethical.
> Even brainless clones should have some rights (animal rights?)

The issue of the rights of animals, brainless humans, and small children
is a difficult one. At one extreme we can say that they are owned
creatures, and their masters can do whatever they wish with them.
That is the more pragmatic view as well, because of the difficulty of
observing mistreatment without having a surveillance state in place.
At the other extreme is the view that people have the right and duty
to prevent mistreatment of helpless creatures even on other people's
property. A moderate position would provide some kind of partial rights
in these cases, with enforcement limited to when infractions become
externally visible. That is basically what we have today, although the
details will not be to everyone's taste.

> and about using animals for donor organs:
> Shouldn't i be the one left to decide what i do with my genes to my animals
> ? (as long as i don't cause that animal to suffer) In the Netherlands a
> court ruled a bull had to be 'terminated' last year, because it was given a
> human gene (which would increase milk production i believe). In the end
> they just sterilized it and let it live.

The fear about mixing animal and human cells is the possibility of
introducing new diseases, encouraging germs to cross species lines.
This is one of those cases where a pure property-rights view may not
be adequate to prevent massive epidemics. It is similar to the case of
quarantining someone who has an infectious disease, one of the classic
"hard cases" of libertarianism.