Over the past two years, I have spent countless hours researching genetic engineering for my novel A Reasonable Price, and I’ve learned some pretty interesting facts. For example, did you know:
- The U.S. House of Representatives defeated bills to ban human cloning in 1998, 2001, 2003, and again in 2007. Did you know that? There is no federal bill of any sort that bans cloning.
- Only fifteen states have passed laws limiting cloning and/or the use of public monies for cloning purposes. That leaves thirty-five states with no specific laws against cloning.
- Up to 50% of Americans believe a human being has already been cloned.
- A team of Korean scientists claims to have cloned human embryos in 2004, though none were implanted into a viable uterus. Dr. Zavos, an American citizen, claims to have cloned 14 embryos, and implanted 11 of those into viable uteruses in 2009. Several other scientists have also made claims or been vocal proponents of reproductive cloning. However, no “human clone” has ever been presented as proof of any of these claims.
- Correspondingly, over 4000 human disorders are caused by the mutation of a single gene. Scientists have the ability to remove or alter these genes from an embryo through PGD, preimplantation genetic diagnosis. These include serious health issues such as sickle-cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington’s Disease, as well as odd-ball traits such as the Achoo Syndrome (tendency to sneeze at bright sunlight), the ability to roll one’s tongue, and polydactyly (the occurrence of an extra finger or toe).
- Parents who have any of these traits can assure that their child will not have these disorders if they use IVF, in vitro fertilization, and PGD to evaluate their embryos. Therefore, theoretically, these single-cell disorders could be eliminated from the human race in a relatively short period of time.
- There are very few steps between genetic engineering and cloning. Twenty-two species of animals have already been cloned, including sheep (famously, Dolly, the first cloned mammal), dogs, cats, mice, and even monkeys. The process is doable. It’s been done.
- As a result of all of the above efforts, scientists have successfully “grown” human body parts and organs such as ears, trachea, kidneys, and more, without the fear or risk of rejection that is omnipresent if the transplanted organs come from another person.
- In fact, in the words of Rebecca Taylor, “Scientists can clone human embryos as much as they want, provided they have the human eggs to do it, and in many states they could transfer those embryos to a female volunteer if they wanted.”
So my question, the concept of my novel, is this: What if there was a female fertility doctor with the ambition and courage to implant a cloned embryo in herself? Further, what if the doctor had secretly cloned one of her patient’s embryos? Who does the child really belong to? And if the cloned child falls ill, how far would the parents of the original child go to help to save his clone?