Cloning is an issue that raises many complex moral and ethical issues. There is any number of opinions on many of these issues, but it has so far proven difficult for the honest Christian to find certain answers on many of them. I am not sure that I have definite answers, but I will simply share some thoughts on a few interesting questions. No doubt you might disagree with some of the things I write, but feel free to comment and tell me why.
If a child is diagnosed with an abnormality in the womb, should that child be aborted?
We must begin with what we believe about that child in the womb. If we believe that the child is a human being (as we do) then we must treat her the same way we would treat her after she was born. The question thus becomes: if a baby is born and has an abnormality, should we put her to death? I don’t think there are many rational people in the world today who would answer yes to that question.
It is not for us to evaluate the worth of a person’s life. Who can say that because a child with Down’s Syndrome may never have the intellectual ability to become a brain surgeon, or the athletic ability to become an Olympian, their life is not worth living? A disabled person is just as capable of living a happy life as an able one. Judgements about whose life is worth living and whose life should be terminated should never, ever become the prerogative of humans.
Is it acceptable to use IVF to give a gay or lesbian couple their own child?
This is a little more complicated. If we begin from the premise that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, then we must doubt the advisability of a family with two homosexual parents. But again, analogy may be enlightening. Would we say that a heterosexual couple where both partners are constantly having extramarital affairs should not be able to use IVF to have a child? Biblically speaking, both adultery and homosexuality are grave sins, and in both these cases, if there is no repentance, the sin will continue. And yet, I think that many Christians would see far less of a problem with the adulterous couple having a child than with the homosexual couple, something of a double standard, perhaps?
Another aspect worth considering of course is the psychological welfare of the child. Research has proven time and again that children are most psychologically healthy and well balanced when they have the influence of both a male and a female parent in their life as they grow up. But there are many other situations where children grow up in these less than ideal conditions – a widow or widower for example, or in the case of divorce or of one of the partners having to be out of town for long periods of time with the armed forces, and so on. Would we deny IVF to such families? Perhaps we might.
Really, the question behind this question is this: should we make moral values one of the criteria for deciding who gets to benefit from a medical therapy? I would think that in the vast majority of cases, the answer would be a resounding “no!” It would be criminal to deny a thief a life saving blood transfusion just because they are a thief, and might one day reoffend. Nor do we deprive women of cosmetic surgery on the grounds that they are excessively vain. We may have to face the fact that if we live in a secular society, the benefits of that society must be available to all its members without prejudice.
Can we use stem cell technology to grow whole organs in the laboratory for transplant?
Foetal stem cells involve the destruction of a full and living foetus, which is equal to murder in the Church’s view. But what about using adult stem cells which have nothing to do with a foetus at all, to grow a liver or a kidney in the laboratory for transplantation?
We already allow organ transplants (which are encouraged by the Church) and the use of artificial organs like artificial hearts, cochleae, etc, and even the implantation of animal organs like pig heart valves. Thus, it is hard to argue against creating completely compatible, natural organs that derive from the patient’s own stem cells, or even from a donor’s stem cells. I see no difference between growing your own liver and the process of a surgery patient donating his own blood a few months before the surgery and receiving it again as a transfusion during surgery.