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Representations of cloning in the public sphere.

This poster was presented at the at Genome Canada G[E.sup.3]LS Winter Symposium in Montreal, February 6-8. 2003.

Research Question

What are the social representations of cloning risks and benefits?


Focus groups: In order to explore social representations in public perception, three focus groups were held in January 2003. The focus groups were composed of randomly recruited members of the general public from Calgary, Alberta.

Content Analysis

In order to investigate social representations in the media, Globe and Mail articles about cloning were coded and analysed from 1997, when Dolly was cloned, through to 2001.


Social Representations of Body Part Cloning

The Globe and Mail articles and the focus group participants shared the same hopes for body part cloning, but they differed regarding concerns.

Social Representations of Animal Cloning

Both the Globe and Mail articles and the focus group participants recognized that there are both benefits and risks for animal cloning. They identified very different sets of benefits and risks. However, both agreed that cloning endangered/extinct animals would be a benefit and that genetic defects would be a risk.

Social Representations of Human Cloning

The Globe and Mail presented a balanced picture of the risks and benefits associated with human cloning, but the focus group participants clearly had limited hopes for this type of cloning--they saw it as mad science.
Focus Group Findings

 Body Part Cloning Animal Cloning Human Cloning


The public identified Participants' main Participants made it
two key hopes for body categories of hopes very clear that they
part cloning: for animal cloning had no hopes for
 included: human cloning:
* Increase in organs "I don't think this
available for trans- * Expansion of scien- group is really
plants. tific/medical know- hoping for human
 ledge. cloning. I might be
* Curing diseases, generalizing, but
such as Alzheimer's * Perfecting cloning nobody put human
and Parkinson's. technique on animals cloning down as a
 before it is used on hope."

 * Bringing endangered/
 extinct species back
 to life.


At first participants The two major concerns Participants had a
said they had no raised were: lot of anxiety about
concerns about body human cloning. They
part cloning. However, * Genetic defects in identified seven main
after a couple of cloned animals. categories of
minutes of brain- concern:
storming, the groups * Impact of cloned
generated three main animals on the * Use of human
categories of environment. cloning for evil
concerns: purposes.

* The process of body * Inhumane treatment
part cloning. of clones.

* Access to body part * Clones not the same
cloning. as originals.

* Ethics of prolonging * Lack of regulation.
life through body part
cloning. * Possibility of
 clones without souls.

 * Environmental

 * Scientists "playing


Participants' hopes The time spent on The majority of focus
for extending human hopes and concerns was group participants
life outnumbered any fairly equal across opposed human
concerns they raised. all three focus cloning.
As such, the majority groups, as were the
of focus group parti- total number of cate-
cipants were in favour gories for both hopes
of body part cloning. and concerns. Partici-
 pants were divided on
 animal cloning.

Content Analysis Findings

 Body Part Cloning Animal Cloning Human Cloning


The Globe and Mail The top three benefits The Globe and Mail
identified two main mentioned were: articles talked pre-
benefits of body part dominantly about two
cloning: * Creation of health- benefits for human
 care products. cloning:
* Solving the organ
transplant shortage. * Animal husbandry. * Cloning of children
 for infertile
* Curing of diseases. * Revival of endan- couples.
 gered and extinct
 species. * Cloning of departed
 loved ones.


The articles only The Globe and Mail The key human cloning
presented one key identified two main risks were:
risk: categories of risks:
 * Human clones with
* Creation of human * Several failed genetic defects.
life only to terminate attempts for one suc-
it. cessful animal clone. * Loss of genetic
 * Genetic defects.
 * Human cloning get-
 ting out of control.


The Globe and Mail The articles mention The Globe and Mail
mentioned benefits of almost equal numbers raised approximately
body part cloning of benefits and risks. equal numbers of
twice as much as benefits and risks
risks. for human cloning.

Grace Reid is a graduate student in the Communications Studies Program. University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
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Author:Reid, Grace
Publication:Health Law Review
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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