Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Dr. Zavos Wants to Clone the Dead 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
News.com.au reports an American is attempting to create human clones from two deceased individuals:
...[M]averick American scientist Dr. Panos Zavos will announce that he has taken DNA from two corpses and used it to create embryonic clones of the dead people.

Zavos says he has taken DNA from an 11-year-old girl called Cady and a 33-year-old man, both of whom died in road accidents, and implanted it into living eggs that subsequently divided in the laboratory to form embryos. But an attempt to make a third clone, using DNA taken from a dummy and nasal extractor belonging to a baby who died, has so far failed to provide results.

The controversial experiment is certain to provoke a furious backlash from critics, who will accuse Zavos, from Lexington, Kentucky, of using gruesome Frankenstein science and of playing God.
There are so many ethical dilemmas surrounding human cloning, that I'll summarize my viewpoint right now by saying that I think it's a really, really bad idea, socially and psychologically, both for cloned individuals and for their families. The hubris of attempting human cloning will only prove we can duplicate bodies; we will never be able to duplicate personalities and souls, and this will be a never-ending source of disappointment and pain for all involved.

While many believe it wrong to make a clone - a sequential twin - of a living person, at least the families of the cloned and clon-ee should instinctively realize that the two individuals do not share the same psychology or "internal state" and are not the same individual occupying two (or more) bodies. On the other hand, cloning the dead involves more pitiful and heartrending motivations than cloning the living.

If Dr. Zavos succeeds, he will have made the identical embryos (and bodies) of 11-year old Cady, or of the unidentified 33-year old man whose DNA he has salvaged. The clones will not be those people. Yet, how will the families be able to extricate their hopes, fears, history and expectations of their deceased loved ones from these new bodies their DNA has generated? Clones will have none of their genetic forebears' memories, thoughts, or experiences, yet the families will see a familiar face and expect a stopped life to restart, and the past to reveal itself, like some bizarre living recording.

"But...[he/she] used to love playing chess and singing...don't you remember the time we all went to...oh, no. I guess you wouldn't remember."

That, to me, is one of the core tragedies of human cloning... what Dr. Zavos is trying to do is an affront to the living and a disservice to the memory of the dead.

The only positive gain I can see arising from successful human cloning is that it will throw a monkeywrench into the use of DNA identification technology, and perhaps reduce the temptations of establishing a future global DNA database...but that's a minor consolation, compared to what humankind would lose.