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Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Major Ethical Dilemmas Raised Critical Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2019

Cloning is one of the most disputable technological advances at present. Experiments with genes started in the twentieth century and people have acquired the necessary tools to create a new life in a lab. Nonetheless, the technology has brought to the fore a number of ethical concerns.

The Catholic Church as well as other religious groups and institutions have opposed to cloning as they argue that people have no right to dare to create life as it is God’s miracle.

Apart from religious groups, lots of thinkers have raised questions concerning the concept of humanness, self-identity and funding scientific research. Kazuo Ishiguro raises issues in his book Never Let Me Go. Notably, he reveals major concerns on the matter. Importantly, he gives certain answers to the questions raised.

Admittedly, one of the major issues concerning cloning is the concept of humanness. People have no single answer to the question concerning clone’s status. It is not clear whether clones should be regarded as citizens of humanity or they can be seen as some inferior creatures. On the one hand, clones are complete replicas of people. A clone has a similar set of genes of another human.

Some claim that since clones are created in a laboratory with the help of specific tools and with the number of certain genes, they cannot be regarded as humans.

Supporters of cloning refer to the use of embryos for research. To certain extent, embryos are also humans at a specific stage of a human existence. According to these people, if embryos are seen as biological material, clones (at least at certain stages of their existence) can also be used in science.

On the other hand, a clone, that lives a life of his/her own, may be a personality who can think and love, suffer and be happy. It is not clear whether clones can have souls or they are more like biological robots. Opponents of cloning stress that clones are still humans and it is inhumane to make them suffer in any way.

However, another question arises. Opponents of cloning believe that scientists have no right to create an organism whose status is difficult or even impossible to define. According to opponents of human cloning, people have no right to create an individual who will have a specific purpose in his/her life, e.g. being certain biological material for experiments.

Ishiguro reveals this debate in his book. The clones in the school create art works. These works are later used to prove that clones are living beings with souls, they are humans. Clearly, Ishiguro reveals his standpoint on the matter. The clones are personalities and humans. They fall in love and make friends.

They have aspirations and dreams. However, the dystopian society created by Ishiguro has another view on the matter. People living in Ishiguro’s book tend to see clones as biological material. Thus, clones are donors and are used at some stage of their lives.

Another ethical dilemma considered in the book is whether clones can be some kind of biological material for curing illnesses. Some people argue that embryos are being used in laboratory experiments. These experiments often lead to useful discoveries and advances in medicine.

Therefore, proponents of cloning claim that it is possible to use clones in experiments as well. Proponents of cloning suggest that clones can be the price necessary for humanity’s breakthrough.

According to deontological standpoint, it is permissible to cause certain harm to an individual to save more people. Hence, it seems possible to create clones (whose status is still undefined) and use them in experiments in the name of the good for the entire humanity. Ishiguro explores this standpoint and creates a whole institution raising donors for others.

The existence of such an institution in the book is a reflection of existing views on the matter. Thus, lots of people admit that suffering of a few individual can be justified in some cases. Proponents of cloning note that there are millions of people suffering from severe disorders. Thus, suffering of a clone or a hundred clones can be justified if the rest of the humanity will be saved from such illnesses as AIDS, cancer, etc.

However, there is another view on this concept. According to utilitarian ethical school, some suffering can be justified if the amount of pleasure outweighs the amount of pain. In case with cloning, it is difficult to measure suffering and pleasure. First of all, the long-term effects of the research are still obscure. People should take into account such issues as mutations or other numerous gaps in the research.

Thus, the joy of having no cancer can be outweighed by the suffering of the humanity which can be affected by a new disorder which can be the result of mutation. In other words, the joy of saving several millions of people cannot outweigh the threat of total extinction of humanity.

Besides, Ishiguro depicts a particular example of the way clones can be used. He provides an example where suffering can be measured. At this point, it is necessary to note that the author does not consider the amount of pleasure as it is rather difficult to predict and measure it. For instance, clones give their organs (or even parts of their bodies) to be transplanted to other people. Clones’ health deteriorates after each surgical intervention.

They inevitably die after certain operations. Clones’ suffering is measurable in the book. Besides, they have to live with the idea of their close death for the sake of somebody else. At the same time, it remains unclear whether the organs given help people live their life to the fullest. Again, the author reveals different standpoints in his book, but also tries to make people share his own view, i.e. suffering cannot be justified.

Apart from focus on the concepts of humanness and suffering, people are also concerned with financial issues. Lots of people argue that it is simply unethical to spend such funds on research associated with too many gaps and uncertainty. They claim that these funds should be allocated more reasonably. For instance, scientists should focus on developing medication rather than creating some new organisms.

Nonetheless, others stress that fertilization was first seen as something unethical and inappropriate in many countries. However, at present, fertilization industry is growing rapidly. Thus, some people note that the chances are that soon cloning will also become a multimillion industry, just like fertilizing industry.

Ishiguro touches upon this debate in his book. The school and clones’ ghetto is a part of experiment aimed at identifying the level of clones’ humanness. In the book, people try to decide whether it is financially justified to invest more in the industry. Remarkably, Ishiguro has no doubts that people will make cloning a profitable industry. The author also reveals his concerns that the industry is likely to become rather cruel and inhumane.

Noteworthy, Ishiguro does not put an explicit question concerning human’s right to create life. However, the entire book can be regarded as a particular example of what can happen if people decide they have the right. At present, religious institutions stress that only God can create and people are creations of God.

Opponents of cloning emphasize that scientists do not understand the mystery of creating life and they should not try to reveal this secret. Scientists, in their turn, provide numerous data trying to prove there is no secret anymore as the gene codes are being analyzed.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Ishiguro’s book is a reflection of the present-day debate on cloning. Clearly, people have different views on the matter. One of the major questions is still unanswered. However, it is also obvious that people tend to agree that clones should be regarded as humans as they are likely to have feelings, dreams and desires.

People also agree that scientists have no right to create humans to serve a specific purpose. At present, people tend to believe that it is unethical to create clones even if this could lead to advances in medicine. The author is one of opponents of clones as he focuses on sufferings of those whose status is semi-defined and who are doomed to be donors. The author projects some scenarios to make people understand the wrongs of cloning.

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IvyPanda. "Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Major Ethical Dilemmas Raised." July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/kazuo-ishiguros-never-let-me-go-and-major-ethical-dilemmas-raised/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Major Ethical Dilemmas Raised." July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/kazuo-ishiguros-never-let-me-go-and-major-ethical-dilemmas-raised/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Major Ethical Dilemmas Raised'. 4 July.

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