Representations of cloning in the public sphere.
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.
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 HOPES HOPES HOPES 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." humans. * Bringing endangered/ extinct species back to life. CONCERNS CONCERNS CONCERNS 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 impacts. * Scientists "playing God." POSITIONS POSITIONS POSITIONS 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 BENEFITS BENEFITS BENEFITS 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. RISKS RISKS RISKS 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 identity. * Genetic defects. * Human cloning get- ting out of control. BENEFIT/RISK RATIO BENEFIT/RISK RATIO BENEFIT/RISK RATIO 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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|Publication:||Health Law Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2003|
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