Cloning and Genetic Parenthood

This paper explores the implications of human reproductive cloning for our notions of parenthood. Cloning comes in numerous varieties, depending on the kind of cell to be cloned, the age of the source at the time the clone is created, the intended social relationship, if any, between source and clone, and whether the clone is to be one of one, or one of many, genetically identical individuals alive at a time. The moral and legal character of an act of cloning may, moreover, differ in light of these distinctions. Surprisingly, however, reproductive cloning in all its variety seems to undermine the view of parenthood that is most popular among proponents of reproductive technology in the bioethics literature. This view, geneticism, has much to recommend it. I will show, however, that as commonly understood, geneticism is incompatible with the reproductive view of cloning. I then canvass alternative accounts of parenthood—namely, conventionalism, gestationalism, and intentionalism—but none succeeds in explaining reproductive cloning. I thus return to a reconstructed version of geneticism. I argue that the problem for geneticism rests not with the notion of genetic parenthood as such but with a particular, flawed, understanding of it, which I call informational geneticism. Informational geneticism should be rejected in favor of a “physicalistic” version of geneticism, which treats genes as particular objects, not abstract types, and takes seriously the essentially embodied character of reproduction. For these reasons, physicalistic geneticism survives the challenge represented by reproductive cloning. Additionally, physicalistic geneticism accommodates attractive aspects of competing views of parenthood, meeting some powerful objections in the process
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DOI 10.1017/S0963180103124097
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Robert Sparrow (2009). Therapeutic Cloning and Reproductive Liberty. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 33 (2):1-17.

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