Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Designer babies and organ harvesting

We were talking about designer babies and all sorts of evil things that are supposed to happen in the future last night and the conversation turned to harvesting organs from specially-bred humans. While we were making a joking conversation out of it, it turns out there have been not one but two movies made about just this subject, The Clonus Horror from the 70s and The Island from this year.

The major problem, we contended, was that the clones wouldn't want to live as clones and would rebel against their destiny as a healthy organ source. One of us suggested that if the clone is in a big sterile room with no stimulation or conversation but good conditions to keep their organs healthy it would work; that without stimulation to their minds they wouldn't think of rebelling or indeed think of anything. I argued though that as humans we are designed to be emotionally active and to think constantly and that a human couldn't actually be controlled in this way. It would end in the clone spontaneously dying because the drive to emotionally connect with other humans and ultimately reproduce is the main driving factor of life itself. Without this opportunity to emotionally connect surely our body would be lacking a kind of sustenance that is required for life to continue? Still a scary/bizarre concept though and I hope we don't have to do an experiment to determine if I'm right.

Update (March 2006): And it turns out that now, when I finally ended up watching The Island, this is precisely the point made by Merrick, the president guy, when he explained that without experiencing human emotion and human interaction – life – the body doesn't develop properly. Of course, this is something I hope we only ever prove in movies!

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Anonymous mick said...

Yea, it is more that a little icky as a subject. I think I agree with you though, I'm not sure that a clone would survive in such an environment. I'm certain that it wouldn't be ethical at any rate!

September 29, 2005 8:03 pm  
Anonymous jair said...

It may not be ethical by any stretch of the word, but if it was possible in the near future i'm sure it would be done. If only for the rich who want to live forever. It's much like the thuge thing about cloning itself - most people don't realise that there's already (hundreds of?) millions of clones running around already. They're not the same people, they have different lives, but a lot of people think that if you clone a human, you clone memories as well. Sorry it's off the topic slightly, but it's a hobby horse =) On the original subject, take a look at a book called "Spares" by Michael Marshall Smith, which is an interesting portrayal of a possible future where clones are used for the purpose of providing spare parts for the wealthy. His other books are also very good.

September 30, 2005 10:21 am  
Anonymous jair said...

had a bit of a re-read of that, and thought i might make it a little more specific - twins are clones. It's not only the result of mad scientists. There are also the embryo-splitting clones, usually produced for infertility treatment or cattle breeding.

September 30, 2005 4:27 pm  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Hehe I thought that's what you meant. The unethical bit is not the fact that these "spare" people are clones, but that they are not treated as human beings or afforded normal human rights. I guess that is why people object to stem cell research too, because the foetus might be human. I don't know about that one??

October 01, 2005 5:31 pm  
Anonymous jair said...

Ahhh, stem cell research *mounts hobby horse*. Stem cells can never develop into a foetus, since there is no signal of polarity (where the sperm fuses with the egg, this becomes the head end of the cell, and without this signal you end up with a mass of cells, not an organism). I think the main prob people have with stem cell research is the source tissue. Even though it comes from what would normally be thrown away (or in australia, left on a bench to dehydrate, so they may 'die with dignity').

October 02, 2005 3:28 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Thank you for making my silly and extremely amateur site a link on here.

You're a link on mine now too.

October 03, 2005 6:06 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

Actually Anthony, I will only ever link to blogs that I enjoy watching because the people who are writing them are "thinking" :) Thanks too.

October 03, 2005 11:42 pm  

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