Bio-ethics in fiction or are clones humans too?

I’m taking a class this summer (because I think learning is fun) called Angelology, Anthropology, and Hamartiology. Translation: Angels, Humans, and Sin. I spent an hour this evening folding clothes and listening to a lecture on bio-ethics. You know, the subjects you don’t bring up in polite society because people can’t agree on them and they can be relationship killers: abortion, whether embryos are people, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and cloning.

The professor contends, and I agree, that your stance on what is acceptable will generally come back to your definition of what makes a person. To make this fun (is that possible?), let’s look at a couple of books I’ve read that center around some of these issues.

The first is Jill Williamson’s Replication:The Jason Experiment. An interesting book about a clone farm, and a Jason that got away. Are clones people? Do they have a soul? Does God love them? Can they be saved? Interesting questions explored from a Christian world-view.

Or could it be that clones might be less than a person? If they are a copy of an individual, then does that make them sub-human? What if they were created for a purpose and that purpose was to serve as an organ donor? Like the case in our next novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Both of these novels are futuristic and dystopian-like in nature. They are plausible, someday our culture might get there, but not realistic for today.

What about a more real-life example? Jodi Picoult’s realistic fiction book, My Sister’s Keeper, is about a girl who sues her parents because they want her to donate one of her organs to save her sibling. The reason she was born was because her parents wanted a second child to be a bone-marrow match for her older sister. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love her or that they love her older sister more, it’s just something they did. But what if the younger daughter doesn’t want to give an organ? What if she’s tired of all the injections, surgeries, procedures that she’s endured on behalf of her sister? Or better yet, what about her older sister? What if she’s ready to be done fighting the cancer that has plagued her all her life? Does she have the right to refuse further treatment?

I love reading books like these because they ask difficult questions and give us a chance to look at scenarios from different points of view from the safety of our favorite reading chair. They expand our mind, challenge our perceptions, and make us sensitive to people and situations around us. They offer another way to explore bio-ethics besides sitting through a class lecture, or maybe in addition to taking classes.

Let me hear from you: what books have you read that have challenged the way you’ve thought about controversial issues? Are there any more books that you would add to my list?