Re: SOC: More genetic tech protests (fwd)
Thu, 12 Aug 1999 11:48:31 -0700

Robert J. Bradbury, <>, writes regarding cloning:
> Siamese twins
> are often separated by a medical operation (whether this is ethical or
> not we will leave aside, often this is done for medical reasons).
> Depending on the degree of twinning this may or may not be done
> in an "equitable" fashion. Usually doctors or parents must "allocate"
> body parts to one "brain" or the other. When I speak about cloning,
> I'm refering to "brainless" body cloning to supply a complete body for
> one of the twins.

Is this currently possible? I would think that eliminating the brain but allowing the body to grow and function normally would be pretty tricky. You probably wouldn't want to eliminate the entire brain, because it is involved in some autonomic functions like breathing. You just want to eliminate the "higher" brain centers.

No doubt this will eventually be possible with genetic engineering, but it would require a lot more knowledge than we currently have about development and its control. Right now I'd guess that the best you could do is something similar to how they made the Epsilons (mentally retarded manual laborers) in Brave New World: a little poison in the womb, a dose of teratogen designed to starve the brain just when it was trying to develop.

There have been a few cases where children were conceived more or less as "spare parts". I remember one where a couple's daughter needed a bone marrow transplant that had to be a close match, but neither parent was suitable. They had a new child in the hopes that his bone marrow would be close enough, and it was. Last I heard everything was going OK. And of course the parents actually loved their new baby even more since he had saved their other child's life, even though they had conceived him for rather utilitarian purposes.

I wonder, if anencephalic births were an option (leaving aside the cloning issue), would any parents choose that method in circumstances such as these? My old-fashioned instincts recoil in horror at the thought of a mindless, drooling parody of a human being, raised solely to provide spare parts. I suppose you could throw the monster away after you'd gotten the bone marrow or other parts you needed in this case. A brave new world, indeed.