In bioethics, the ethics of cloning refers to a variety of ethical positions regarding the practice and possibilities of cloning, especially human cloning. While many of these views are religious in origin, the questions raised by cloning are faced by secular perspectives as well. Perspectives on human cloning are theoretical, as human therapeutic and reproductive cloning are not commercially used; animals are currently cloned in laboratories and in livestock production.
Advocates support development of therapeutic cloning in order to generate tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants, to avoid the need for immunosuppressive drugs, and to stave off the effects of aging. Advocates for reproductive cloning believe that parents who cannot otherwise procreate should have access to the technology.
Opponents of cloning have concerns that technology is not yet developed enough to be safe, that it could be prone to abuse (leading to the generation of humans from whom organs and tissues would be harvested), and have concerns about how cloned individuals could integrate with families and with society at large.
Religious groups are divided, with some opposing the technology as usurping God's place and, to the extent embryos are used, destroying a human life; others support therapeutic cloning's potential life-saving benefits.
Cloning of animals is opposed by animal-groups due to the number of cloned animals that suffer from malformations before they die, and while food from cloned animals has been approved by the US FDA, its use is opposed by some other groups concerned about food safety.
The various forms of cloning, particularly human cloning, are controversial. There have been numerous demands for all progress in the human cloning field to be halted. Most scientific, governmental and religious organizations oppose reproductive cloning. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and other scientific organizations have made public statements suggesting that human reproductive cloning be banned until safety issues are resolved. Serious ethical concerns have been raised by the future possibility of harvesting organs from clones.
Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues, and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology. One bioethicist, Jacob M. Appel of New York University, has gone so far as to argue that "children cloned for therapeutic purposes" such as "to donate bone marrow to a sibling with leukemia" may someday be viewed as heroes.
Proponents claim that human reproductive cloning also would produce benefits to couples who cannot otherwise procreate. In the early 2000s Severino Antinori and Panos Zavos stirred controversy when they publicly stated plans to create a fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with at least some of their DNA in their offspring.
In Aubrey de Grey's proposed SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), one of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo.
There are also ethical objections. Article 11 of UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights asserts that the reproductive cloning of human beings is contrary to human dignity, that a potential life represented by the embryo is destroyed when embryonic cells are used, and there is a significant likelihood that cloned individuals would be biologically damaged, due to the inherent unreliability of cloning technology.
Ethicists have speculated on difficulties that might arise in a world where human clones exist. For example, human cloning might change the shape of family structure by complicating the role of parenting within a family of convoluted kinship relations. For example, a female DNA donor would be the clone's genetic twin, rather than mother, complicating the genetic and social relationships between mother and child as well as the relationships between other family members and the clone. In another example, there may be expectations that the cloned individuals would act identically to the human from which they were cloned, which could infringe on the right to self-determination.
Proponents of animal rights argue that non-human animals possess certain moral rights as living entities and should therefore be afforded the same ethical considerations as human beings. This would negate the exploitation of animals in scientific research on cloning, cloning used in food production, or as other resources for human use or consumption.
The Roman Catholic Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, condemned the practice of human cloning, in the magisterial instruction Dignitas Personae, stating that it represents a "grave offense to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people." Many conservative Christian groups have opposed human cloning and the cloning of human embryos, since they believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Other Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ do not believe a fertilized egg constitutes a living being, but still they oppose the cloning of embryonic cells. The World Council of Churches, representing nearly 400 Christian denominations worldwide, opposed cloning of both human embryos and whole humans in February 2006. The United Methodist Church opposed research and reproductive cloning in May 2000 and again in May 2004.
Proponents of stem-cell research in India often cite the 100 kaurava brothers in the Mahabarata as an example of early human cloning. However Pankaj Mishra notes that these births are regarded as an "ominous event" in the epic.
The prominent Qatari scholar, Yusuf Al Qaradawi believes that cloning specific parts of the human body for medical purposes is not prohibited in Islam, but to clone the whole human body would not be permitted under any circumstances but on the issue of animal ethics he takes a more lenient position.
The late Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon, Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah did not see cloning as illegitimate. He also stressed that Islam encourages the pursuit of the sciences including medicine. The Ayatollah did however warn against cloning the entire human being for the purpose of harvesting his or her organs.
Sunni Muslims consider human cloning to be forbidden by Islam. The Islamic Fiqh Academy, in its Tenth Conference proceedings, which was convened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the period from June 28, 1997 to July 3, 1997, issued a Fatwā stating that human cloning is haraam (sinful).
Judaism does not equate life with conception and, though some question the wisdom of cloning, Orthodox rabbis generally find no firm reason in Jewish law and ethics to object to cloning. Liberal Jewish thinkers have cautioned against cloning, among other genetic engineering efforts, though some prize the potential medical advantages.
Raëlism is the only religious group of which any part (specifically, the religion's medical arm Clonaid) has claimed to have successfully cloned a human being. Clonaid claims that cloning will bring humanity closer to immortality.
Following the announcement, then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan spoke on behalf of president George W. Bush and said that human cloning was "deeply troubling" to most Americans. Kansas Republican Sam Brownback said that Congress should ban all human cloning, while some Democrats were worried that Clonaid announcement would lead to the banning of therapeutic cloning. FDA biotechnology chief Dr. Phil Noguchi warned that the human cloning, even if it worked, risked transferring sexually transmitted diseases to the newly born child. Clonaid claimed that it had a list of couples who were ready to have a cloned child.
University of Wisconsin–Madison bioethicist Alta Charo said that even in other ape-like mammals, the risk for miscarriage, birth defects, and life problems remains high. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technologies said that Clonaid has no record of accomplishment for cloning anything, but he said that if Clonaid actually succeeded, there would be public unrest that may lead to the banning of therapeutic cloning, which has the capacity to cure millions of patients. The Vatican said that the claims expressed a mentality that was brutal and lacked ethical consideration. The White House was also critical of the claims.
On December 28, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the consumption of meat and other products from cloned animals. Cloned-animal products were said to be virtually indistinguishable from the non-cloned animals. Furthermore, companies would not be required to provide labels informing the consumer that the meat comes from a cloned animal. In 2007, some meat and dairy producers did propose a system to track all cloned animals as they move through the food chain, suggesting that a national database system integrated into the National Animal Identification System could eventually allow food labeling. However, as of 2013 no tracking system exists, and products from cloned animals are sold for human consumption in the United States.
Critics have raised objections to the FDA's approval of cloned-animal products for human consumption, arguing that the FDA's research was inadequate, inappropriately limited, and of questionable scientific validity. Several consumer-advocate groups are working to encourage a tracking program that would allow consumers to become more aware of cloned-animal products within their food.
A 2013 review noted that there is widespread misunderstanding about cloned and cattle, and found that cloned cattle that reached adulthood and entered the food supply were substantially equivalent to conventional cattle with respect to the quality of meat and milk, and with respect to their reproductive capability.