If you lost a loved one, could you turn to human cloning?

One of the most interesting parts of running a website like The Niche is that reader’s questions can sometimes be so striking including recent ones on human cloning.

They got me thinking about cloning again.

Knoepfler-art-Human-Cloning
Human cloning: the two main types. Note that other types of activation besides a shock and also cell fusion methods can be used for the step shown in the middle.

Human cloning & loss of a loved one: things to consider

Several readers have recently asked about whether human cloning could be used to on some level to bring back a version of the person who died.

Losing a loved one can be a terrible shock and there’s a lot to deal with in the months and years that follow. I can understand why some folks might think about cloning as a possible option.

In writing back to the readers, I outlined some things to think about in my replies.

One thing to consider is that the clone, even if they could successfully and safely be made, would not be the same person who has been lost. They would be like an identical twin produced at a different time.

Other factors besides genetics can come into play including epigenetics, which controls gene activity.

The uterine environment can also have a big impact. If it was a child who died and then later the same mother carried the child’s clone to term, the uterine environment could be fairly similar to that when the first daughter or son was born. However, some years would have gone by so the mother’s health, diet, external environment, etc. could be different.

Also, just the mom being somewhat older could change the in utero conditions.

If the cloning was done via a surrogate mother then the uterine environment could be very different.

Another thing to think about is that the clone would be a baby at first so they wouldn’t look just like the person who had died until the clone grew up to be the same age. Still, parents may have memories of what their child looked like as a baby and the clone would likely look almost the same.

Human-cloning
An artistic vision of cloning. Daisuke Takakura human cloning art from the book GMO Sapiens by Paul Knoepfler.

Cloning facts & more considerations

I’ve written about cloning numerous times so check that out for background. Also see my recent article: Human cloning is more likely now but would you take the big risks? 

At this time, cloning of people would not be safe. The risks need some serious consideration.

Dangers could include developmental disorders facing the clones or even death after birth. I also think it’s likely that research into reproductive cloning of people would lead to a large number of miscarriages along the way.

Practically speaking to even begin to try to clone a human being you would need healthy living cells from them. When someone has died it is not always possible to get and preserve such cells. In the intensity of grief it is also possible that saving cells might not come to mind.

Technologies that could advance human cloning used for reproduction have advanced over the 12 or so years I’ve been writing The Niche.

Cloning of animals has also taken major steps forward as a technology, which could enable attempts at the human version.

Ethical and bigger picture considerations

This all raises another important consideration. Even cloning motivated by the understandable desire to replace a lost loved one could enable more dubious or even outright unethical uses of the same technologies by others.

For instance, if research advanced human cloning technologies for one effort specifically focused on producing a clone of a lost family member, someone else then could use that technology to make clones for an unethical reason.

It’s hard to keep technology in a bottle.

There could even be frivolous cloning such as of dead celebrities or attempts to bring back icons (e.g. see Imagine Cloning John Lennon From Old Molar and Justin Beiber or Einstein or you? Who gets cloned first?)

Cloning could also be extremely expensive and only available to certain people in society.

What about alternatives to cloning for those grieving?

I’m not sure any will be quite what families are looking for after deaths of loved ones.

3 thoughts on “If you lost a loved one, could you turn to human cloning?”

  1. I would like to propose an idea to enable those who are childless the chance to register their interest in having themselves cloned after they die. Not necessarily another DNA bank but a pledge to live again in a time more favourable towards infertility.

  2. Ivan Velimirovic, MPharm

    I would turn to human cloning without a second of hesitation. Actually, I’m hoping that in the following years, maybe two decades, it will become a normal and safe procedure, available to everyone, myself included.

    As for taking a child death as an ‘ethical’ reason and other instances as ‘unethical’ – I can just say that this standpoint is unethical in its nature.

    The medical technology, drugs, surgical procedures and such forth should be available to everyone. Or none. No “approval” (except in case of medical reasons), no artificial “ethical/unethical” classification, nothing.

    I’m following this issue for over 20 years and reading voraciously everything even remotely connected. Each and every argument regarding “ethics” is very deep into grey zone – having monoclonal antibodies is ethical? Or not? What about the pets? And ultimately, humans?

    There is very little difference between right to abort pregnancy, artificial insemination or using sperm banks, and cloning.

    I categorically refuse to be dependent on “ethical” reasons which put cats and children over everything else. I’m fully accepting medical reasons, though. Also, the matter of personal choice and personal ethics.

    Remember that no child actually asked to be born, and that there is no “ethical” committee which allows or disallows the birthright.

    Cloning is an inalienable right of each person.

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