Article Text

Human reproductive cloning and reasons for deprivation
  1. D A Jensen
  1. Dr D A Jensen, Brigham Young University, 4093 JFSB, Department of Philosophy, Provo, UT 84604, USA; davidj{at}


Human reproductive cloning provides the possibility of genetically related children for persons for whom present technologies are ineffective. I argue that the desire for genetically related children is not, by itself, a sufficient reason to engage in human reproductive cloning. I show this by arguing that the value underlying the desire for genetically related children implies a tension between the parent and the future child. This tension stems from an instance of a deprivation and violates a general principle of reasons for deprivation. Alternative considerations, such as a right to procreative autonomy, do not appear helpful in making the case for human reproductive cloning merely on the basis of the desire for genetically related children.

Statistics from


  • Competing interests: None.

  • i One might argue that HRC with adequate genetic modification would not deprive the clone of its uniqueness (see, for example, Strong 2005).1 This seems correct, and my argument does not weigh against such a situation. My concern is not with the methods of HRC, but the result. In some significant sense, using the methods of HRC but adding significant genetic modification does not seem to be a case of HRC since the resulting child is not a clone of the parent. (I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for pointing out this objection.)

  • ii Nor does the fact that each twin has the same genetic make-up, which will be passed on to their children, imply that they do not or cannot value genetically related children. One, unless genetically identical twins marry genetically identical twins, their resulting children will be genetically unique. Two, even if two genetically identical twins married genetically identical twins, the expression of DNA will vary (due to crossing over and recombination during meiosis); so the children will be unique in the same way that siblings of the same parents are unique. Reproduction through HRC does not involve this sort of variance. If it could, if some sort of crossing over could be induced so that the resulting offspring is more of a brother than an identical twin, then this would be significantly different from HRC and I don’t believe my argument would speak against it. (I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this objection.)

  • iii I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this objection.

  • iv A second response to the first point—that merely desiring is adequate warrant—is that I have not argued against the case of merely desiring a child by HRC. My argument has been against the case of desiring a child through HRC because one wants a genetically related child. While it may be true that there are some who merely want a cloned child (and my argument does not speak against that), once a person takes themselves to have a reason for cloning and that reason is for the sake of a genetically related child then my argument comes into play. I argue for an inconsistency in this kind of case.

  • v An additional objection is that no special justification for HRC is needed since, all things being equal, it is better off for the clone child to be alive than to have no life at all. I consider this objection later in the paper.

  • vi I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this objection.

  • vii One approach might be to argue not for reasons which directly support HRC, but reasons against other kinds of “reproduction.” A couple might have legitimate reasons against adoption, sperm/egg donation, and so forth, and so their only option for children is through HRC. Indeed, their motive is not to have a genetically related child, but merely to have a child and it turns out that HRC is their only available means. My argument does not necessarily weigh against this case, though I suspect such a case would be rare since reasons which legitimately weigh against other options would often weight against HRC as well. For example, a person who does not have the monetary resources to purchase viable ova will not have the monetary resources to undergo reproduction through HRC. (I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this objection.)

  • viii Feinberg3 makes a similar argument that I wish to distinguish from what I am arguing. He argues that it makes sense for a person to make a claim such as “I wish I existed no longer.” Such a person is not wishing he belong to some realm of nonexistent things. Nor is there any problem of our conceptualising a situation in which he does not exist. Rather, such a person is merely taking an objective perspective on the world and claiming that it would be better without him in it (158–9). I believe Feinberg is correct, but for two reasons I do not think it challenges the point I have made. First, Feinberg’s case deals with an already existing person who can judge, given his life, of whether the world would be better without him in it. The case of HRC does not start with an existing person and consider the world without him. It starts with the world and a nonexisting person. So there is no perspective from which we can identify this person and make claims about him (unlike in Feinberg’s case). Two, Feinberg’s case involves a person making judgments about himself and his value. But the case of HRC involves one person making a judgment about another (nonexisting) person. So one does not have the perspective of the other person that one has in the case of Feinberg’s example since in Feinberg’s case they are identical. On the same note, to make arguments about nonexisting clones losing out on life is akin to arguments (bad ones, I believe), that contraception is wrong since it deprives a nonexisting thing of its life. As with the argument I made above, it is difficult to understand what the thing is that is being deprived of something. (I’m indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this objection.)

  • ix See Strong (1998)5 for a further discussion of reasons for valuing genetically related children.

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.