ParshaYitro Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum February 14, 2004
Cloning of humans is no longer merely a science fiction fantasy, but is soon becoming a scientific reality. Predictions of cloning can be found as early as the commentary of the Meiri (1249-1306) on Talmud Sanhedrin 67b said: "There will come a time when science will know how to create human beings without the natural intimate act. This has been explained in the books of science and is not an impossibility."
In recent years, the debate concerning the cloning of mammalian life has generally turned from a debate whether cloning is ethical, or not ethical. The question of cloning from both a Jewish ethical standpoint and general Western ethics’ perspective will be addressed.
Rabbinical rulings dealing with health and medicine, based on the commandments in the Pentateuch and their elaboration in the Talmud and Codes of Jewish law, have been handed down to us over the centuries, and new ones are issued every year. The collection of such rabbinical rulings is known as Halacha (Jewish legal verdicts).
"Jewish Medical Ethics on the Threshold of a New Century: Trends and Challenges" according to Professor Velvl Greene, a leading writer and proponent on this topic says: "Although the term Jewish Medical Ethics first came into use in the 1950s, and the popular interest is a recent phenomenon, their relevance and acceptance has been part of the fabric of the Jewish people since Sinai."
In the article, "Cloning Revisited: Blessing or Curse?" the authors Daniel Kantor, Professor Jeffrey Kantor, and Jonathan Kantor raise a basic concern. Is cloning good or bad in general and in particular for Jews?
There are many ideas to consider when talking about the Jewish perspective of cloning. Can the mitzvah "Be fruitful and multiply" be accomplished through cloning? Can Jews use cloning as a way to help or heal an ill person? Would a clone be considered Jewish if he or she was a clone? Regarding the very important question of fatherhood, would the child have a father? Are there halachic prohibitions concerning cloning? What about family relationships? Will humans be seen as G-d if they clone humans? This paper explores a long list of questions and concerns on the subject. Let us start at the beginning. The definition of cloning is defined as "cultivating the cell through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual."
Government involvement in cloning has been extensive, particularly in the funding of basic medical research and health care. This has clear societal impact that dips into peoples wallets and affects lives.
There are several benefits and drawbacks of cloning. Some major benefits may include repair or replacement of damaged or dead cells, treatment of cancer, production of organs or bone marrow for transplantation, and addressing the needs of infertile couples. For instance, cloning might present a way to repair or replace damaged brain cells in patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Cloning could lead to treatment of deadly diseases such as leukemia or heart disease. The drawbacks to human cloning includes the possibility that clones may not be treated as humans and may be abused eugenically, to create people with special characteristics… a tall child, smart child, a child who is musically inclined, etc. Some people are disturbed by the potential of shopping and brewing specific traits. Another critical issue according to Jewish scholars, is whether cloning violates the dictum of derech ha’tevah (according to the natural order). Does the idea of creating human life via replication go against a general dogma that G-d directed human life to be formed by natural sexual processes?
However, New Jersey and California have already passed measures like this into law to permit the allocation of money towards cloning research development. Many countries have outlawed cloning. The Israeli Knesset has banned a law on human cloning to date, but allows for animal basic biological research.
First, let’s talk about Dolly the sheep. She was successfully cloned in February 1997, in Scotland, after 277 failed attempts "In the original experiment, a cloned sheep was produced by removing the nucleus—the compartment containing most of the genes - from a sheep’s egg and replacing it with genetic material from an adult sheep cell. This led to the creation of a genetic duplicate of that adult sheep…"
After seeing that adult animals could be cloned, a Pandora’s Box of speculations and concerns in the Jewish world emerged. The motives and goals of human cloning have since been widely discussed and hotly debated.
From the book "…And You Shall Live By Them." Louis Flancbaum, MD, talks about cloning and some ethical questions people may have.
"Cloning is the creation of a genetically identical replica of a given identity. That is, the clone is a perfect copy having the identical composition (genotype) and physical appearance (phenotype) of the original. The scientific methodology to clone plants and lower forms of life has been available for some time; it is only recently that scientists have reported successfully cloning adult mammals. Ethical discussions about cloning have been initiated because of the tremendous potential for this new technology to have an impact on a host of therapeutic modalities and concerns about the possibility of eventually cloning an entire human being…"
"The NJ law signed by Governor McGreevy on January 4, 2004 allows the creation of human embryos through cloning. This is the same procedure used to clone Dolly the Sheep. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is a procedure where the nucleus from an unfertilized egg is removed (and therefore its genetic material also) and DNA taken from another donor is transferred into an egg." This is taken from the New Jersey right to life website.
Wesley J. Smith writes: "It is becoming increasingly clear that the bio-anarchists leading the charge to Brave New World want a virtually unlimited license to engage in human cloning. The proof is in the legislation they keep trying to pass."
Professor Miryam Z. Wahrman poses a few questions on the cloning debate. Here is a small portion of her article from a conference in Miami:
"The ethical implications of turning humans into instruments - but at the same time the potential to use human clones to save other human lives - has led to a divergence of opinions among rabbinical scholars who have tackled the question of human cloning."
"While no clear consensus exists as to whether human cloning is "kosher," Jewish scholars have analyzed the situation and have identified some major halachic (Jewish legal) issues…"
Can cloning be halachically prohibited? There is no halachic prohibition to attempt to clone human beings. One example is the creature Golem, which is sited in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 65b). The creature Golem was not formed or birthed from a woman, as it was created from dirt and did not have the ability to speak. By not having the ability to speak, it had no soul and therefore was not considered to be a human being. On the other hand, a cloned human has the full standing of any human being. It may not be prohibited in Jewish law to clone a human, but one should be very cautious in doing so.
Furthermore, in Judaism, paternity is defined as the donation of sperm. In cloning, since there is no sperm being used, who would be the father? And if DNA from a different man (not the woman’s husband) would be used, would that child then be considered a mamzer (bastard)?
J.D. Bleich says that "under very limited circumstances human cloning, when scientifically prudent, and undertaken with appropriate safeguards, may be deemed appropriate and halachically sound."
On that note, using genetic screening, and genetic therapy, cloning would be permissible in Judaism if used only for the treatment, prevention, or cure of diseases. This genetic exploitation would not be considered to violate G-d’s law, but would be a legitimate use of the biblical commandment to heal. ("Ve’rappo yerappo, and heal, you shall heal") Exodus 21:19.
Toby R.Gurich, MD, DSc and Professor Herman Branover, DSc say that: "Genetically, the clone would have the status of a monozygote twin in the respect to the person who provided the cell nucleus for the cloning" Monozygote twins, like the Chuka twins from the United States, both share identical physical features and both have different personalities and moral qualities.
On the topic of parenting and the father, who would the father be if no sperm were used? Using DNA from a man to clone a man. Alternatively, who would be the mother?
"Since an egg (relieved of its own nuclear DNA) is used, and a woman’s uterus is needed, then the egg donor and/or the gestational woman would be considered the mother. If two women were involved—one as egg donor, and the other gestational—it is possible that both would be afforded the status of mother. According to Bleich’s analysis of the halachic implications of surrogate motherhood, it is possible for a child to have two halachic mothers."
Who would be the father? If being a father is defined only as the use of a man’s sperm, then it would be possible, since the male DNA donor would not be considered a father because no sperm was used. Therefore, there is no father.
In opposition, the male DNA donor would definitely be considered the father because the donor gave twice the amount of DNA as a male does in a normal conception.
According to M.J. Broyde, in the article. "Cloning People and Jewish Law: A Preliminary Analysis" He states that:
" A man who reproduces through in vitro fertilization contributes only half of the genetic material through his sperm, and is still considered the father according to normative Jewish law… Certainly in this case, the fact that the man contributed all of the nucleic genetic material would appear to be enough to label this person the father according to Jewish law…"
When using DNA from a woman to clone a female, who would be the mother? Who would it be, the DNA donor, the egg donor, or the surrogate mother who carried the baby throughout the pregnancy?
According to rabbinic analysis on in-vitro, egg donation and surrogate motherhood, the woman who gives birth is clearly the mother. But Bleich suggests that since the other woman gave the egg, being the egg donor, she also has a claim to be the mother. Thusly, there would be two halachic mothers.
Bleich sites Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach Zt"l: If both the egg donor and the surrogate mother are to be considered mothers, if either one of the mothers were not Jewish, the Jewish statutes placed on the child would be questionable. The child would have to go through a conversion to be considered a Jew.
Again let’s ask, who would be the father? Since there is no semen involved, there wouldn’t be a father. The father of the female who is being cloned should be the father. But, since the donor is the man’s daughter, then he would really be considered the grandfather, not the father.
Broyd says that: "The one who fertilized the egg, either by providing half the normal chromosomes in the case of regular fertilization, or all the chromosomes, in the case of cloning, should be the parent."
Lastly, could there be no halachic father in this case? Steinberg and J.D. Loike suggest that she should be considered on the same level as a Shetuki (a person who does not know who her father or mother is). Rabbinical sages say that a Shetuki isn’t allowed to marry, because she might marry a half-brother and they would create a mamzer (bastard). Since a fatherless female clone cannot be a Shetuki because she has no father, there isn’t an issue of her not identifying a father.
On the same level, when someone converts to Judaism, after conversion all genetic ties are broken, according to halacha. Therefore, the convert is considered to have no blood relations. Thus, he or she has no mother or father, halachically. The statutes of a convert most closely relates to a female clone, and being fatherless in terms of her being Jewish.
Does cloning fulfill the biblical obligation to "be fruitful and multiply"? If a female is cloned, that to say, if you were to produce a female clone, whereby no man was involved in making the baby, then the female clone does not fulfill the mans obligation to reproduce offspring.
One could argue that since there are three partners in the creation of a human being, the mother, the father, and G-d, cloning of a human negates identifiable parenthood and may thus seem objectionable to Judaism.
For the production of a male clone, it depends on how reproduction is defined. J.D. Bleich’s view is that, in order for the father to fulfill the requirement a man would have to contribute semen. "If a clone is produced from the cell of a man, the man does not thereby fulfill the biblical commandment with the regard to procreation." This argument is based on the passage "male and female did He create them." (Genesis 1:27)
Therefore, even if cohabitation isn’t required, the commandment is fulfilled only if the child is the product of gametes contributed by both the male and female. He reasons that because a large majority of halachic authorities hold that the children produced through means other then a sexual relationship are still the legal children of the inseminator.
M.J. Broyde reasons that: " A man who reproduces through in vitro fertilization contributes only half of the genetic material through his sperm, and is still considered the father according to normative Jewish law… Certainly in this case, the fact that the man contributed all of the nucleic genetic material would appear to be enough to label this person the father according to Jewish law, and to state that this person has fulfilled the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, or its rabbinic analog."
On the subject of genetic screening, genetic therapy and cloning in Judaism Professor Fred Rosner, MD, FACP says that using methods to screen for as treatment, prevention, or cure for diseases fulfills the biblical commandment to heal.
"Ve’rappo yerappe, (and heal, you shall heal)" Exodus 21:19
He says that if cloning would be used to heal for example Tay-Sachs or other diseases it is permitted in Jewish law. He also says that: "Pre implantation screening and the use of only "healthy" zygotes for implantation into the mother’s womb to prevent the birth of an affected child are probably sanctioned in Jewish law."
To use genetic screening to improve physical characteristics such as eye color and such would be frowned upon in Judaism, as is serves no useful medical purpose. The entire field of cosmetic and elective surgery is an offshoot; it has its own set of biomedical interpretations.
Further back in time, King David said: "The heavens are the lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to mankind." (Psalms 115:16) This further supports the concept that knowledge and its pursuit are legitimate activities for human beings and not considered an encroachment upon divine prerogatives. The use of scientific knowledge to benefit mankind is also biblically mandated.
Incidentally, Nachmanides, a biblical commentator from the 12 C.E. said about Genesis 1:28, that the use of scientific knowledge to benefit humankind is biblically mandated, additionally he said: "The use of such knowledge to heal illness and cure disease is also biblically allowed based on the Talmudic interpretations of Talmud: Bava Kama 85a, from the verse: " and heal, you shall heal". (Exodus 21:19). Regarding Maimonides’ interpretation of the Mishnah commentary Nedarim 4:4 regarding the biblical obligation to restore a lost object (Deuteronomy 22:2), he believes that should include the restoration of someone’s lost health. Also, the healing of illnesses included medications that were genetically engineered, such as Insulin for Diabetes and other antibiotics. Therefore, the cure of diseases by gene therapy would be sanctioned by Jewish law.
Would the creating of a human clone be seen as playing G-d? Do humans have the ability to create life in an alternative way from "the birds and the bees" method? A. Steinberg refutes this by saying that the true creation of life is the production of something from nothing. "yesh me’ayin (life from non-life)" Only G-d can do that. Others postulate that the process of human cloning involves producing life from already existing life. "Yesh me’yesh (life from life)" Therefore, state the scientist and medical explorers, we are not trying to take away G-d’s power of creation.
Still, Rabbinic judges haven’t reached a unanimous accord as to how to handle humans being cloned. Bleich states that: "Tampering with natural processes in a manner that would lead to a social upheaval is not included in man’s mandate "to fill the earth and conquer it.’"
Conversely, the commandment "ve’rappo yerappe (and heal, you shall heal)" Exodus: 21:19 seems to say or require that humans should use new technology for positive medical breakthroughs. Cloning would, in essence, open new doors for medical treatments and opportunities to help understand diseases and may even cure illnesses.
Bleich says that cloning could help patients who need transplants. With cloning, the patient might not suffer from rejections of new organs. This could provide unimaginable relief of human suffering. "The goal of such technology would be the cloning of human tissues and organs rather than human beings." Bleich also states that the Halacha views cloning humans as a less then ideal way to reproduce people. "However, when no other method is available it would be appear that Jewish law accepts that having children through cloning is perhaps a mitzvah in a number of circumstances and is morally neutral in a number of the other circumstances."
In conclusion, there is no specific Jewish legal prohibition to attempt to clone a human being. It seems that in certain and very individual cases it may be permissible in Judaism when used for the treatment, cure or prevention of disease. This intervention may not be considered a violation of G-d’s natural law, but a legitimate implementation of the biblical mandate to heal. The cloning of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses may hold a wide variety of therapeutic benefits to treat and cure illness. However, to unleash "super-bacteria" into the world for non-therapeutic, or even evil purposes is totally contrary to Jewish ethics. Therefore, this entire field should be approached with immense caution.
The major ethical problem facing medicine and science in the future will be the struggle to preserve man’s spirituality and humanity against the forces of mechanization and the implications in such areas as genetic engineering and artificial generation of life. Other issues that will challenge halacha in the future include the distribution of scarce medical resources and the allocation of limited funds for health care. Additionally, professional ethics, specifically medical confidentiality versus public interest is another area that will certainly surface in the grand picture. Public health, safety, conservation of natural resources, economic policy, health costs, and research priorities present full-blown challenges to our universe. Will Jewish medical ethics become a bond that unites and helps people, or will it become a divisive entity? These issues present contemporary Jewry with many unique challenges, as well as infinite opportunities.
While no clear consensus exists as to whether human cloning is "kosher", Jewish scholars, health professionals, lawmakers and society in general will continue to explore this highly sensitive topic. Jewish bio- ethicists certainly have Torah and halachic issues to turn to for complex answers and directions. Hopefully, divine wisdom and Judaic teachings will be used for good and for the benefit of mankind.