Last week I discussed the possibility and ethics of cloning your pet so you could have the “same” animal for your lifetime, what about the ethics of cloning yourself? I’m not talking about cloning machines in cartoons where someone walks in and an exact duplicate walks out with them, of the same age and appearance. A real clone is created when a donor’s genetic material is placed in an egg empty of genetic material and born of a surrogate mother. If you cloned yourself this way, you would raise a child who is genetically identical to you.
Assuming we prove cloning creates physically healthy and normal individuals, what would that sort of parent/child relationship look like?
Would a parent of her own clone have special insight into what her daughter would need in a parent? Like clones, identical twins have all the same genes. Even when separated at birth, they have similar intelligence, habits, and behaviors. They have even been known to pose for pictures in the same way as their long-lost siblings. In studies of identical twins separated at birth and reunited, many say they feel closer and more familiar with their new-found sibling than with their best friend. Would a genetically identical parent be ideal at understanding the clone child’s personality and behavior? Or would a generation gap drive clone and donor apart?
What about societal expectations? Identical twins separated at birth sometimes find their way into the same careers. Two twins reunited found they both owned body building gyms despite being raised in different households. If a clone did end up in the same career as his donor, would the pressure to live up to, or surpass the original, be greater than that on a child following a non-genetically identical parent into the same career? Would it be hard for a clone to accept being less successful than a genetically identical parent? Or vice versa?
And what about parent expectations? Do parents clone themselves because they want to live forever, in a way, by gracing the world with an individual with the same genes. What if their clone was simply different? One set of twins found that one was good at expressing himself verbally, the other was better in writing. Would a famous writer be disappointed if his clone was not like himself?
If I cloned myself, I imagine she would be an anxious child. She would twist her hair around her fingers absent-mindedly and chew gum obsessively. She might be prone to a bout of childhood depression. I imagine I would look at our report cards side-by-side and shiver at the similarities.
But what if I’m wrong? Would I force her to be something she was not? My clone and I wouldn’t be contemporaries after all. Would I assume I knew what she liked and needed? I hope I would be able to make a distinction between us, and let her become who she needed to be, not what I wished I could be if I could do everything over.
One thing is for sure, I would never tell her she was a clone. The identity crisis might be too great and ripple through her entire existence. Besides, genetically identical or not, there comes a time when we realize we have become exactly like our parents, and by then, we can accept it.