I had the pleasure of binge watching the first two seasons of BBC America’s Orphan Black on Blu Ray over the past week, and found myself ruminating over the ethics of human cloning. For someone not familiar with this series, this is hardly a spoiler as the tagline for the first season is “A Clone Is Never Alone.”
The series begins with Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a grifter, seeing a woman who appears to be her doppelganger commit suicide on a train platform. Sarah then assumes her identity and is thrust into a plot that goes far deeper than she realizes. Soon she meets several other women who look like her and it is revealed that they are clones (All played by Tatiana Maslany, wonderfully too I might add). One of the many great science fiction aspects of the show is rooted in a debate that’s been ongoing ever since the first cells were cloned decades ago.
[The following section may contain minor spoilers of Season 1 and possibly Season 2 of Orphan Black]
This post is not meant to be a review of the Orphan Black TV series, though in case anyone was wondering, I loved it. Instead I wanted to focus on the scientific aspects of the show. For instance, if someone were to clone a human being and that child made it to full term, would their process for doing so be patented? If it were, would they have a patent on that human being? How much control could they exert over that person? Would they have a legal right to be able to monitor their “creation?” These are a few of the questions that came up in the series, though there are many more that I would need to get into more back story to relate.
The show focuses more on the questions about what to do after this process has already occurred and there are clones in the world. The question of SHOULD a human being be cloned is not really at the forefront of the date. They’re here and there are many of them. An exact number isn’t known. What should be done about it and what rights should the clones have is at the forefront of the debate. Various factions treat the clones with varying levels of respect. The Dyad Institute, which in part created the clones, seems to be interested in the science of it, though they most certainly have ulterior motives. There is a group religious extremists called the Proletheans who for the most part believe the clones should be destroyed. It is also revealed that the military has been involved at various points in time.
If human cloning were to be revealed to exist today, I think the way it’s portrayed in Orphan Black would be very accurate as to some of the types of groups involved and how the different clones would react (some take it better than others). As far as my opinion on human cloning, I believe it should be restricted to regrowing specific body parts/organs by way of stem cell lines and 3D organic printing and that cloning involving full term babies should be illegal. The ramifications far outweigh the possible benefits. Soon, groups could form that aim to clone their leader or to clone a ‘master race’ and we’re down a rabbit hole we’ll never get out of again. Imagine if terrorists could clone their leaders and raise them to lead the next generation of terrorists. They would look identical and soon they could be labeled a prophet and their face is blasted everywhere. It would be a nightmare. That said, if clones were to exist already, I think we would have to treat them like anyone else and pass legislation that guarantees their human rights.
I do believe we need to be careful where we tread in regards to this science. We want to make scientific progress that allows people to live longer, healthier lives. At the same time, there are so many questions that are unanswered regarding the technology. Orphan Black brings up the fact that what if numerous people had the same DNA or fingerprints. I can hear the criminals in the courtroom crying that their clone did it. What are some of the questions this brings up for you? Do you believe human cloning should be legal, patented or otherwise?