Clone (2010): Bringing loved ones back from the dead

January 13, 2014

(Warning: contains plot spoilers!) Cloning is a frequent theme in contemporary cinema. We have blogged about some of these previously (The 6th Day and Godsend). The 2010 movie Clone (aka Womb in other parts of the world) is an interesting addition to the collection. In particular, this film offers some insight into how generational relationships might be affected by cloning.

Rebecca (Eva Green) gives birth to a clone of her former partner Tommy

Rebecca (Eva Green) gives birth to a clone of her former partner Tommy

Plot summary: Rebecca and Tommy are close friends as children, before her mother’s job requires Rebecca to move to Japan. Having completed a degree, the adult Rebecca (Eva Green) returns. She and Tommy (Matt Smith) renew their friendship and quickly become lovers.

On the way to conducting an act of civil disobedience at the nearby cloning facility, Tommy is killed in a car crash. Rather than pursuing his campaign against the cloners, Rebecca turns to their services and becomes the surrogate mother for a clone of Tommy.

Although cloning is becoming more established in their society, prevailing attitudes against “copies” means that Rebecca keeps the details about her son’s origins a secret. When, however, the truth is leaked Rebecca and Tommy move to a more remote location. The younger Tommy only comes to know he is a clone towards the end of the film.

Reflections: Clone is a fairly slow moving and low-key movie, more arthouse than blockbuster. It is somewhat reminiscent in tone to Blueprint, which has some similar themes. If you are looking for clips to launch a discussion about the ethics of cloning, the most useful section runs from about 00:50:00 to 00:53:30. Two scenes, running consecutively, nicely encapsulate some of the tensions. In the first, Rebecca comes across Tommy and his friend Eric talking to a girl Dima about her rabbit. Rebecca extends Dima an invitation to come to their house, which the girl declines. As Dima walks away, Tommy and Eric compare notes, to see if they could detect the weird smell that “copies” are supposed to have.

In the follow-up scene, a group of mothers are chastising Rebecca for having offered to let Dima come to her house, because she is a copy. As one of the women puts it, Dima is a “Victim of artificial incest”, since she is a clone of her own grandmother.

As an alternative, you might use a section starting at 00:38:00. It is just after the original Tommy has died, and Rebecca raises the possibility of cloning him with Tommy’s mum (she is horrified by the notion, but Tommy’s father later provides the necessary material for the process).

There are a number of trailers for the film on YouTube. There are actually significant differences between the trailer for the UK version Clone (here) and the US trailer for Womb (here, and below).  The latter is a much better taster to whet the appetite regarding the the ethical issues in the film.

The film is unsettling. In particular the sexual tension between Rebecca and both versions of Tommy (the photo and video above both capture something of this). Towards the end of the film, when the clone discovers the truth about his identity, he and Rebecca have sex. Is this incest (as the earlier observer had suggested regarding the generational confusion surrounding Dima)? It is not a loving act on Tommy’s part. Shortly afterwards he leaves.


Dark Matters: An archive of research ethics mistakes

December 20, 2013
darkmatter

Stories discussed in Dark Matters could prove useful when teaching about research ethics

I discovered recently that the Discovery Science channel has an interesting little series called Dark Matters: Twisted but true. Started in 2011, to date there have been two series of the show. Typically each 45 minute episode looks at three separate examples of “strange science”. The standard format for each tale includes historical reenactment and soundbite interviews with experts from the field.

In truth the choice of incidents discussed is patchy; some aligning poorly with the definition of “science”, or “strange”, or both. The subtitle “Twisted but true” gives insight into the audience for whom the series may be targeted.  We also need to be slightly cautious about putting too much reliance on the validity of docudrama versions of events.

Having said that, however, there are plenty of examples here which could be used as introductions to some of the more notorious breaches of research ethics. For example, Season 2 Episode 2 (TRILT 02F8C452) discusses Louis Pasteur’s testing of an experimental rabies vaccine on Joseph Meister. Episode 2.6 (TRILT 02FB2D0F) includes recreation of the notorious Stanford prison experiment, and 2.7 (TRILT 02FD7B36) discusses the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in which poor sharecroppers with syphilis were deliberately kept untreated, even after the efficacy of penicillin for treating the illness had been demonstrated.


Headline Bioethics: The balance of safety in publication of H5N1 research

September 3, 2013

[A printable version of this Headline Bioethics Commentary is available via this link]
H5N1

Author: Nick McDonald

Clip: Experts delay call on releasing controversial H5N1 work

Date of story: 17th February 2012

 

Summary of story: In the period 2003–2011, 566 cases of people infected by bird flu worldwide were reported to WHO (2011), with 59% of the cases being fatal. The virus has been known to infect people since 1997 (Grady and Broad, 2011), but only through infected birds, and not via person-to-person transmission(Yong, 2012b). Herfst et al (2012) and Imai et al (2012) mutated H5N1 to see if it could acquire the mutations necessary for airborne transmission between ferrets (considered a good model for humans) in the wild. This research was due to be published in the journals Nature and Science, but the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) asked the journals to delay publication, and recommended that key methods should be omitted (Grady and Broad, 2011) due to fears of the virus being released “by error or by terror” (Keim, 2012) and the “potential risk of public harm to be of unusually high magnitude” (Berns, 2012). Eventually in March of 2012 the NSABB agreed that the two papers should be published in full (Yong, 2012a). The video from February 2012 reports on the decision to delay publication.

Discussion of ethical issues: The decision about whether or not to publish details of the process by which H5N1 could be render easier to transmit is a good example of a dual-use dilemma, defined by Atlas and Dando (2006: p276) as “the generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge that could be misapplied for biological weapons development and production”. Kuhlau et al (2011) argue that if a dual-use technology poses a legitimate threat, the science community is obliged to develop, implement and adhere to precautious measures to meet the concern. Read the rest of this entry »


Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing

June 12, 2013
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics report about Personalised Healthcare includes consideration of DTC Genetic Testing

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics report about Personalised Healthcare includes consideration of DTC Genetic Testing

The fall in the cost of DNA sequencing has opened the door to providing an individual with genetic information on such issues as paternity and the risk of developing or passing on a particular genetic disease. Some services are available via formal channels, but there is also a burgeoning market in direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales of genetic information and the associated interpretation of that data.

This video, made by second year students at the University of Leicester, looks at some of the ethical issues arising from the availability of personal genetic data direct from commercial companies.

The following link offer more details about: Teaching resources using the Nuffield report on medical profiling

You may also be interested in the post Is there a gene for oversimplistic analysis? from our sister site Journal of the Left-handed Biochemist.


Healthcare Rationing

June 12, 2013

It is a sad reality of any publically-funded heath service that there is always more that could be done if only there were sufficient finances. This short video by Medical students at the University of Leicester, raises some of the different tensions facing those who need to make decisions about the allocation of resources.


Synthetic Biology

June 12, 2013

This year’s winner of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ Box Office Bioethics video competition was produced by Marylka Griffiths from the University of Warwick.


 

For more on the topic, please see this Bioethicsbytes review of Horizon: Playing God.


Three-parent IVF and Mitochondrial Diseases

June 12, 2013
The report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics was produced in 2012

The report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics was produced in 2012

In the past year, two major reports have been published concerning the ethics of “three-parent IVF”, in which a donated egg would be used to overcome disease arising from the small amount of genetic material found within mitochondria, the energy factories of the cell.

The first report Novel techniques for the prevention of mitochondrial DNA disorders: an ethical review was produced by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (June 2012) – see summary of key findings.

In March 2013 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published their Advice to Government on Mitochondria replacement.

Both reports were largely in favour of the development. For examples of arguments against the technique see, for example, this post by the Christian Medical Fellowship.

A short animated video on the topic has been produced by second year students at the University of Leicester.


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