Wednesday, April 26, 2006

THE MORALITY OF FRANKESTEIN’S CLONE

This article deals with Legal and ethical questions raised by cloning

‘Human Cloning had been achieved early in the twenty-first century. Even when the technology had been perfected, it had never become widespread, partly because of ethical objections and partly because there were few circumstances that could ever justify it.’
Arthur C. Clarke; Imperial Earth


FRANKESTEIN
It was a bright cold day in spring of 1814 when Shelley, the great romantic poet eloped for the second time1 With Mary Godwin first to France, then to Switzerland. There he was to meet Lord Byron his friend, another great poet of that era.

It was the time when the fundamentals of electricity were taking shape. Galvani had discovered that frog muscles could respond to two different metals. He thought, muscles had animal electricity. Volta soon disproved it by showing that two different metals could produce electricity. Volta had made the first electric battery. And then Humphrey Davy made a more powerful battery and carried other experiments. This happened in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Life and electricity were in every one’s mind.

One day, Shelly, Byron and Mary Selley together discussed, what was in everybody’s mind. They thought about writing a story. Mary encouraged by Shelly and Byron went on to write it. Frankestein is the name of that story. It is about Frankestein, a young scientist of Anatomy. He puts life into an eight foot tall creature through electricity. The creature, not accepted by the society, kills every one close to Frankestein including his bride and then Frankestein himself.

The story for the first time raised a fear of the unknown and of moral questions about scientific experiments. Creating life is God’s domain, who are we to tread there. The book is one of the most talked about and later inspired many movies. Frankestein’s monster has gone from realm of fiction to become a part of the English language. Shelly and Byron were not only great but rightly imagined themselves to be great. Imagine their plight; the dent to their ego, if they were to be transported in time. More people have read and debated Frankestein than all the works of Shelly and Byron put together. Frankestein was not the first time when moral and ethical questions about scientific experiments were asked. Rather, it was the first fiction to do so. It was not to end there. These questions arise: when principles conflict, facts are ambiguous and result uncertain. These questions are being raised at present more fiercely than at any other time. Cloning is the reason.

CLONE
Clone, also spelled Clon, means producing genetically identical organisms derived from a single individual by asexual methods. Amphibians were cloned in 1950’s but died before reaching adulthood. No mammals had ever been cloned. It fell to the Roslyn Institute near Edinburg; Scotland to clone first mammal in 1997. The present euphoria is all about that. The scientists at the Rosalyn Institute took cells from the udder of a female sheep and placed it in a culture of low concentration of nutrients. We know, cells divide and multiply; by this process the cells stopped dividing. They switched off their active genes and stopped multiplying. An unfertilised egg was taken from another female sheep. Its DNA was sucked out so that the egg was empty, then the cell taken from the first female sheep was placed in it with gentle push of electric pulses. This was now placed in the uterus of a female sheep, which gave birth to a sheep identical to the first one. Simple isn’t it. But the questions it raises are not simple.

SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD
Cloning has again raised questions of surrogate motherhood. Is xeroxing oneself proper? Will it produce better individuals? Who can clone? Will prostitutes be allowed to clone? Should gays be allowed? And we have had same sex marriages. Should they be permitted?

The dilemma of Surrogacy is not new. It was raised in 1979, the year the first test tube baby was born. Soon a committee chaired by Mary Warnock was appointed to look into the issues involved. Many of its recommendations were implemented by The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Not every one is happy with it. It is yet to be answered satisfactorily. Many find the idea of surrogate motherhood to be settle. Houses, rooms are taken on rent; but then will we permit wombs to be taken on rent?

SHOULD WE
Notwithstanding Howard Hughes’ In his Image: The Cloning of a Man2 , no human has been cloned as yet. At least there is no authentic proof. It has not happened since God performed that delicate surgery on Adams to create Eve. Well, if God could why can’t we.? May be precisely for that reason only can do it, we can’t. In fact it is the fear of the unknown. We might do something that we may have to repent for later. When will it come about? It is banned in England. If other countries do not ban it then do not encourage it either. Yet the first human clone may come about by the end of this century. And perfected as Arthur C. Clark says, in his science fiction ‘Imperial Earth’, in the early twenty first century:’ A sexual reproduction is not unknown. It does happen in nature; but only in the lower species. It does not occur in higher species. We have evolved from a sexual reproduction to sexual reproduction. There is no point in turning the clock back. We mix, we evolve, and otherwise stagnation, malfunction are the result.

ELIGIBILITY
The most troubling of all issues is who should be entitled to clone? What would be the criteria? Human body does not accept transplant of human organs from every one. Will a person, who needs human organs for a transplant, be entitled to clone. Surely his own body, his own carbon copy will be able to supply acceptable human organ.

Infertile couples who cannot even have test tube baby may be permitted. But then what about: unmarried couples, or common law Husbands and wives, or a single person? There is no prohibition for a single person to adopt. Who better to adopt than oneself - whom one can understand well.

Will we permit a prostitute to clone? Then will gay or lesbian couple be left behind? It was with this in mind that Section 13 (5) of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in England provides, a woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for a father)

No two humans are the same. Clones will not be either. A carbon copy does not mean an exact replica, mentally or physically. Nurture does play an important role. Not only when child is in the womb but also when it is outside the womb. But the basic instinct will be the same. The world would be happy to have another Einstein But then what happens if he is Hitler or Jack the ripper!
'Cloning was neither good nor bad; only its purpose was important. And that purpose should not be one that was trivial or selfish’ (Imperial Earth; Arthur C. Clarke).
But there is no guarantee that cloning will not be trivial or selfish. One selfish clone may cost us heavily. The world that we know, as we understand, may have cloning for precisely those reasons - trivial or selfish.3

Should we ban human cloning? Fankestein was fiction. But the fears that it raised are real. Yet the world has progressed. Science has not stopped the world. It will not stop even if cloning is permitted. For if we do not permit it, surely it will flourish in ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau ’ (A book written by HG Wells).

1Shelly had earlier eloped in 1811 at the age of 19 with Harriet.

2In this book he has claimed to have made a human clone. This was latter found to be false.

3Sometimes I wish, I was wrong.

CHAPTER-V: LAW & SCIENCE

Science is progress. Its transcends all disciplines. It will have greater impact in times to come.


All articles in this book except one have already been published in different newspapers and magazines. The article GAY RIGHTS PARITY CONSERVATION-MIRROR IMAGES has not been published (see Endnote-1). I had sent it to many magazines and newspapers but no one was willing to publish it. May be the connection, which I have tried to build up between the ‘Gay Rights’ and ‘Parity Conservation & Mirror Images’ is too weak,(Endnote-2) or may be the article is controversial. I am neither Gay nor do I approve of it. Then why did I write it? Well, the bond between the two ideas operating in different spheres fascinates me. It is for this reason that the two articles in this chapter were written.


Endnote-1: It has since publication of the 1st edition, published after the controversy over the movie ‘Fire’.

Endnote-2: This is what Dr. Jim Samuelson, a high energy physicist from Sweden, has to say,

'The reason why Mr. Yatindra Singh uses the violation of parity conservation as an argument for the rights of homosexuals is, even if well intended, not entirely transparent. I guess one could use the same phenomenon as an argument against those rights: Since nature allows asymmetry, that might indicate that she also wants asymmetry in sexual relationships namely one representative from each gender not two from both ....
Apart from that, the author seems to have a fairly good grasp of the physics he is discussing. For example he does get the conservation of angular momentum in connection with ice skating right; not everyone does. The statement about symmetry of time is a bit dubious though. As he states it, it is correct – as far as we know: the laws of nature do not change with time.'

Sunday, April 23, 2006

IN THE MATTER OF ‘A JUDGE’

Themis - courtesy Wikipedia
This article is a protest against the higher courts making observations against the lower courts. It is written as an opinion of a court and deals with a case where a judge of a lower court has sued the judge of the higher court for making an observation (lower court judge is a fool) against him. This observation was made after placing a different interpretation than the one, which was prevalent at the time when the lower court judge (Plaintiff here) gave his judgement. He (the lower court judge) was judged by the law changed by the higher court judge (defendant here). There is no such case where one judge has sued another, however this can not be said about passing strictures or making observations. This has happened many times and often unnecessarily.

The article in this process traces the history of law relating to liability of the judges in deciding disputes. It took some time to understand that independence of the judiciary is not possible unless judges are protected. There is no point losing this protection.


(This case is reported in 1984 TR 420. One does not know what TR stands for. If it is not trash, it could be tripe. Though others insist it is Tommy Rot. The year 1984 or the page number 420 has nothing to do with either George Orwell or the Penal code of the God-forsaken country called India.)


Friday, April 21, 2006

PRETTY ONES

Conelia Sorabji - courtesy Wikipeda
This article traces history of ‘Person’ clause cases where women claimed equal rights with men and the Allahabad High Court, which has the distinction of enrolling, Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman advocate under the Person clause.


CHAPTER-IV: LAW & HISTORY

History is as important to Law as the Law itself is.

Men often talk about women’s rights. It’s fashionable. So do I. In Pretty ones you will find history for equal rights for women in law courts.

One day, when I was talking about women rights, my wife innocently asked me, ‘You merely talk. But do you believe in it? My father practised it. When he came back from Harvard Medical School in 1963; he left his 28 year old wife in Toronto to do her Post Doctoral studies. Would you ever do the same?’

Not to be outdone I answered, ‘My father was a district court lawyer in Banda. He, in 1939 had permitted his 19 year old wife, married but a year ago, to live in a hostel, to do her BA and then LL.B. from Benaras Hindu University.’

The result was that my wife has been abroad many times in connection with her studies and I have yet to go abroad even once.

Aren’t they clever?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

THALIDOMIDE BABIES AND RELIANCE PETROCHEMICAL

This article is a comment on the Thalidomide case in England (where newly born babies had flippers instead of hands and legs) and Reliance Petrochemicals in India, where two competing rights namely the right to know and the right to a fair trial were involved.
Thalidomide baby from BBC video clip

Monday, April 10, 2006

THE MONKEY TRIAL

This article is a comparative study of Odyssey Communications Pvt. Ltd. Vs Lokvidayan Sangathan AIR 1988 SC 1642 (the Honi Anhonee case), Edwards Vs Aguilard (482 US 510) a similar case in USA where vires of Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act (Creationism Act) was challenged and ‘The monkey trial’ where Scopes, a biology teacher was prosecuted for teaching Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’.
Bryan (seated at left) being interrogated by Clarence Darrow during the Monkey trial on the lawns of the court - courtesy  Smithsonian Institution Archives

CHAPTER III: COMPARATIVE LAW - INDIA & ABROAD

One can not but be proud of the Indian Judiciary. It has come out well. But there are few cases for which such comments may be reserved. This has happened not only in India but other countries too. If we had the Habeas Corpus Case then England had Liversidge Vs Anderson. Here are some more.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

DECISIONS ARE FROM THE HEART RATHER THAN THE HEAD

This article is about: American Supreme Court; the case Griswold Vs Connecticut 381 US 479; Family planning and Right to Privacy, and of course the decision making process.
Photograph - courtesy Wikipedia

Friday, April 07, 2006

BUT IS IT FAIR?

Earl Warren - courtesy Wikipedia
This article is about the case ‘Miranda Vs. Arizona’ 348 US 486; the ‘exclusionary rule’; Earl Warren the 14th Chief Justice of USA and the philosophy of fairness that governed his life.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

THE ROSENBERG SAGA

This article is about the Rosenberg couple who were sentenced to death for leaking nuclear secrets to USSR during second world war and the interesting book ‘The Implosion Conspiracy’ about this case. This book is written by Louis Nizer, who was a leading trial lawyer of America.

Aadhaar - Inadequate Data protection

Ambedkar Presenting final draft of the Constitution to Rajendra prasad - Picture courtesy Wikipedia The three part series on 'Priv...