Since Life began, man has been trying to prolong it

Since Life began, man has been trying to prolong it. If you asked a dying person what they most wanted, most of them would answer, “more time” or, “to live longer”. And now, with recent scientific research, it seems as though this dream is becoming increasingly possible.

DNA was discovered in 1953 by British molecular biologist Francis Crick and US biochemist James Watson. Research since then has been going wild, in a sense, new discoveries happening all the time, and in 1996, researchers in America cloned two monkeys.

There has been a furious moral debate over the research into preserving the human body. There is now the knowledge to select an embryo from a woman to have an exact tissue match as, say, an older sibling, who could use this selected baby to get life-saving bone marrow transplants.

Such a case has been in the media recently with the family Hashmis. Their son, Zain, has a rare blood disorder and needs a tissue match for bone marrow transplants to keep him alive, and with a younger sibling being created to match his tissue type, he may also be able to have scientists take stem cells from the created baby to treat his condition.

The opposition argues that if this case gets permission to proceed, after already two failed attempts, where are we going to draw the line? Organ cloning (the cloning of organs for someone needing a transplant to save their life, a current legal practice) Designer babies (babies selected for a particular eye colour, or intelligence level, not yet legal)? And what psychological effects may the children in question suffer from later in life? Zain may feel rejected, as though because the younger sibling was specially selected, he is not as important. Or may resent the younger sibling if the treatment fails. The child resulting from the embryo selection could feel that he would not have existed, had his brother not been sick. Or, on the other hand, he may feel proud that he was chosen out of hundreds of embryos, and saved his brother’s life. Who can tell what impact this could have?

Eugenics, the selection or prevention of reproduction for social, political, or racial reasons is another side to this argument. Scientists have the knowledge, to select or reject babies on health, parenthood, etc. A doctor can tell, before a baby is born, whether the child has Downs Syndrome. Of course, the mother must give permission for the foetus to be tested. But this practice is seen as controversial. Does this create a discrimination against people affected by Downs Syndrome? And, although doctors can tell if a baby has Downs, they cannot tell how badly that baby will be affected. Many people with Downs Syndrome are able to lead a normal life, so the parents, on hearing to news that their unborn baby has Downs Syndrome, may decide to abort an almost healthy baby, which could grow into a happy, successful adult. The parents are also faced with the guilt of the decision. Aborting a baby is a terrible thing to go through psychologically in normal circumstances, but going through an abortion because your unborn baby is ill can leave a scar for the parents, not physically, but mentally. If they decide to keep the baby, they could be faced with feelings of guilt for giving their child such a life, and that they were being selfish in deciding to keep the child. So, the question is, should this sort of testing be banned? There are many debates happening worldwide, but for now, it remains a legal practice.

The cloning of humans is not yet allowed legally. But in the future, what is to stop people from overturning that ban, and growing copies of themselves for “spare parts”? Or people may decide, that when they die, they want someone in their place. For people without children, but a large will, this seems a perfect solutiion. Simply grow a copy of themselves and give their inheritance to their clone.

There seems to be little in the way of protection against these kinds of ideas of preserving life, and there should be. If you let some select a baby for a specific purpose, then why cant you not grow a spare of yourself for transplants if you need them? Where is the line drawn? It is a question that worries many, but few are acting on it. How can it affect me, I hear you ask? Well, it will do, if in years to come the authorities of the world try top create the perfect race, and your IQ is deemed to low to be allowed to reproduce, or you are not allowed to keep your baby because of mental health problems you have suffered with. We should start now to campaign for better protection from this kind of dangerous science, and, if necessary, destroy all research to date.

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