About the Author(s)
Recent Developments
Evan Willis

Abstract: This article gives a brief overview on California human cloning laws. It illustrates why cloning a human is illegal and explains both sides of the cloning debate. Specifically, this article presents the arguments for the potential benefits of cloning and arguments against cloning. This article explores a heavily debated issued in the medical field: human cloning.

Keywords: human cloning, reproductive cloning

Published: January 30, 2014
Cite as:
Willis, E. The Contemporary Human Cloning Law & Debate. Bull Health L Policy. 2014; 2(2).

“[L]ike the splitting of the atom, this is a discovery that carries burdens as well as benefits”- President Bill Clinton.1 Not so long ago, human cloning was a fictitious idea that only appeared in books and movies. The thought of actually cloning another human was just a dream. But with recent advancements in science and medicine, that dream could soon become reality. The dawn of cloning surfaced when Dolly, a female sheep, was cloned in 1996.2 Since Dolly was created, scientific advancements in cloning have improved. Dolly paved the way for other successfully cloned animals, such as dogs, buffalo, frogs, camels, and monkeys; many of which are healthy and alive today. 3

Knowing all different types of animals have been cloned, it leaves a question in the back of everyone’s head…what about humans? Could cloning benefit humans? What makes cloning seem so “taboo?” Could there be ramifications from cloning humans? Why hasn’t a human been successfully cloned yet?

These are troubling questions. But in today’s advanced technological world, the answers to these questions could be discovered much sooner than later. “It probably will be at least ten years "until we'll be able to clone humans. That gives us time to decide if it's a good idea."”4 But even with the ability to clone a human, there is a large hurdle to overcome. Namely, cloning humans is illegal.5


Human reproductive cloning is the practice of creating or attempting to create a human being by transferring the nucleus from a human cell into an egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed for the purpose of implanting the resulting product in a uterus, thus resulting in the birth of a human being.6 California human cloning laws are strict and clear. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 24185 states no person shall ever clone a human being or engage in human reproductive cloning.7 Various other states such as Massachusetts and Illinois have strict cloning laws as well. California in particular has safeguard statutes that limit cloning by mandating that no person shall purchase or sell an ovum, zygote, embryo, or fetus for the purpose of cloning a human being.8

One of the strongest driving forces behind restricting reproductive cloning is policy concerns. Human cloning sets forth ethical implications, and the law presents a brick wall that blocks any scientist from legally cloning a human.9 From a social perspective, the very possibility of having a cloned human standing in an elevator with non-cloned humans would make many American’s skin crawl.10 Human cloning could be also be seen as a step advancing eugenics; does human cloning really advocate the improvement of human genetic traits?

For these reasons and more, there are concerns that human cloning could have consequences our society may not be able to handle.11 An example would be “the temptation to use [clones] as if they were merely objects and not people.”12 For instance, creating human clones for the sole purpose of killing them to harvest their organs for sick people.13 Furthermore, it has been asserted that “… the deliberate generation of human clones impinges on the dignity and integrity of the human as an individual.”14 For example, we could begin experimenting on humans and use them similar to experimental lab rats.15 Human cloning presents a danger in changing things that should not be changed, especially in a state with overcrowding, in a world with over seven billion people.

However, some people see human cloning as an opportunity to advance medical science and improve the lives of others.16 Cloning can be used to cure diseases, and achieve therapeutic objectives that could help infertile couples, or those who have lost a loved one.17 For example, a couple could bring back their cloned son who died in a car accident. Additionally, clones could be created to donate non-essential organs like kidneys or bone marrow; improving the lives of the sick and terminally ill.18

Moreover, human cloning can further medical research, present various new reproductive opportunities, and possibly cure diseases.19 Human cloning could very well improve the lives of others if it were made legal. Yet with these potential benefits there is still a risk of harm that may not be worth taking.

Is the possible advancement in medicine really worth potentially altering society? Would cloning actually alter society, and do we want to find out? If a human is cloned it could be the most historical and societal transformation to ever occur. However, human cloning also presents potential, yet uncertain benefits to the health, medical, and research community. As for now, the law is strict and clear, human cloning in California is illegal.

Competing Interests: None reported.

Evan is a second year law student at California Western School of Law and a member of the Health Law Society. Evan received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The University of Arizona.

References (Bluebook)
1 Marlene Cimons & Jonathan Peterson, Clinton Bans U.S. Funds for Human Cloning Research, LA TIMES, Mar. 5, 1997. http://articles.latimes.com/1997-03-05/news/mn-35032_1_human-cloning-research.
2 Ian Wilmut et al., Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells, 385 NATURE 810, 11 (1997).
3 List of Cloned Animals,CHICAGO TRIBUNE, http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-cloning-animals-gif,0,1333698.graphic (last visited Dec. 28, 2012).
4 Robin K. Sterns, Double or Nothing, Santa Clara U. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/sterns/doublenothing.html. (last visited Dec. 28, 2012).
5 Kenton Abel, Human Cloning, 13 BERKELEY TECH L.J. 465, 470 (1998).
6 Cal. Health & Safety Code § 125292.10 (West 2003)
7 Cal. Health & Safety Code § 24185 (West)
8 Cal. Health & Safety Code § 24185 (West)
9 Kenton Abel, supra note 5.
10 See Elisa Eiseman, Cloning Human Beings, RAND CORP. (1999), http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning2/cc3.pdf.
11 Id.
12 See George Annas, Human Cloning: Should the United State Legislate Against It?, 81 A.B.A.J. 83 (1997)
13 See Elisa Eiseman, supra note 10.
14 Id.
15 Robin K. Sterns, supra note 4.
16 See Elisa Eiseman, supra note 10.
17 Jeffrey Kluger, Will We Follow the Sheep?, TIME (Mar. 10, 1997).
18 Id.
19 Jamie Rasmussen, The Not So Slippery Slope: Why the Regulation of Therapeutic Cloning Should Be Left to the States,12 MICH. ST. U. MED & LAW 387, 390 (2008).

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