There are thousands of Canadians who are in a critical need of an organ transplant, and hundreds of them die each year waiting for one (Government of Canada, 2017). The demands for organ transplants critically exceed the number that is available. I see the effects of this first hand as a clerk at The Ottawa General Hospital when family members lose their loved ones due to the lack of organs available. A lifesaving solution to this crisis is therapeutic cloning, a procedure to produce healthy organs by replicating a human embryo and harvesting its stem cells. However, “under the AHR Act, it is illegal to knowingly create a human clone, regardless of the purpose, including therapeutic and reproductive cloning in Canada” (Government of Canada, 2014). The legalization of human cloning in Canada has the potential to revolutionize the medical field by providing substitute organs for patients in need. In addition, cloning human organs would ease the financial burden on the healthcare system, decrease the organ rejection rates, and eliminate the transplant waitlist.
A common argument against this approach is that the cost of creating a cloned organ is far too expensive, as it can reach up to approximately $100,000 (Herper, 2013). However, patients who are currently waiting for an organ transplant often require a considerable amount of medical attention, which can become extremely costly. For instance, individuals in Canada who are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant are required to set aside 3 to 4 hours for dialysis treatment, three times a week (Picard, 2017). According to The Globe and Mail, dialysis treatments cost about $60,000 per person a year. In comparison, a kidney transplant alone costs $23,000 and the anti-rejection drug is an additional $6,000 a year (Picard, 2017). Furthermore, it can take several years until one receives a kidney transplant, depending on what province the patient lives. Thus, the total cost of an organ transplant is crippling to the health care system. Alternatively, in the long term, cloning human organs would be much cheaper because patients would no longer need to spend money on anti-rejection drugs and on possible second transplants caused by organ rejection. Cloning human organs would in fact ease the financial burden by eliminating the excessive expenses associated with delayed treatment.
As previously mentioned, patients who receive an organ transplant need to take an anti-rejection drug; this allows the body to suppress the immune system in order to prevent it from attacking the new organ. Unfortunately, these medications have numerous negative side effects that include higher rates of cancer and infections (Harvard, 2015). As a consequence, scientists from the University of Missouri cloned pigs that lack the GATA1 gene (Conger, 2008). This gene is primarily responsible for the rejection response of newly transplanted organs in humans. These researchers proposed the idea of cloning pigs in order to perform xenotransplantation, a process in which animal organs are transplanted into the human body (Conger, 2008). Although, this novel solution helped to reduce organ rejection, there remains a possibility of spreading viruses from one species to another. According to the National Geographic News: “Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV), … is part of a pig’s natural genetic makeup and does not cause any disease in the animal. There is no guarantee, however, that PERV would be harmless in humans.” (Trivedi, 2002) Thus, cloning of human organs would significantly increase the success rate of transplants because organs would be made out of the patient’s own genetic material, thus enabling doctors to no longer worry about organ or tissue rejection. Cloning human organs has great potential to drastically reduce rejection rates after a transplant.
Some may carry the belief that the cloning of organs is unethical due to the unnatural creation of a human product. However, this cost is outweighed by its potential to save thousands of lives. Many Canadians die every year while waiting for an organ transplant due to demands exceeding the availability (Government of Canada, 2017). A well-known case is that of Laura Hillier, an 18 year old girl from Ontario who died from a curable leukemia while on the waitlist for a stem cell transplant (CBC Radio, 2016). Like many others, Hillier passed away due to the long waitlist for the needed stem cells: “this situation has been called a crisis by some of Ontario’s top transplant doctors. Hillier called the system ‘cruel, inhumane and potentially deadly'” (CBC Radio, 2016). Cloning human organs would ultimately eliminate the waitlist for transplants since the need would no longer exceed the number of available organs. Furthermore, the recipient would no longer require a donor with a similar DNA match in order to provide the organ. As a consequence, threatening organ extraction and risks to the donor could be eliminated altogether. This would in fact save thousands of lives that should never have been lost, such as Hillier’s.
Therefore, the legalization of human cloning in Canada has the potential to revolutionize the medical field by providing substitute organs for patients in need. This would in fact ease the financial burden on the health care system by reducing the cost of treatments while patients are waiting for a transplant. Likewise, cloning human organs would significantly reduce rejection rates after the procedure, since the organs are made out of the patient’s own stem cells. In addition, this treatment would also eradicate the transplant waitlist, as the need would no longer exceed the availability. With this purpose in mind, therapeutic cloning can be extended to treating genetic diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson disease and Alzheimer’s disease.