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A resource-based version of the argument that cloning is an affront to human dignity
  1. R McDougall
  1. R McDougall, Centre for Health and Society, Level 4, 207 Bouverie St, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; r.mcdougall{at}


The claim that human reproductive cloning constitutes an affront to human dignity became a familiar one in 1997 as policymakers and bioethicists responded to the announcement of the birth of Dolly the sheep. Various versions of the argument that reproductive cloning is an affront to human dignity have been made, most focusing on the dignity of the child produced by cloning. However, these arguments tend to be unpersuasive and strongly criticised in the bioethical literature. In this paper I put forward a different argument that reproductive cloning is an affront to human dignity, one that looks beyond the dignity of the child produced. I suggest that allocating funds to such a pursuit can affront human dignity by diverting resources away from those existing people who lack sufficient health to enable them to exercise basic rights and liberties. This version of the argument posits cloning as an affront to human dignity in particular circumstances, rather than claiming the technology as intrinsically inconsistent with human dignity.

  • cloning
  • human dignity
  • resource allocation

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  • Funding: This work was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • i This is the technique by which the nucleus of an adult somatic cell is placed in an ovum which has had its own nuclear genetic material removed. The ovum is then stimulated to develop, and implanted.

  • ii I take this to be one of the more plausible interests potentially served by cloning. Cloning would enable an infertile couple to have a child to whom they both have some biological connection (for example, the father could contribute the nuclear genome, while the mother contributed the mitochondrial genome in the ovum as well as gestation).