Type: Exploratory
Pages: 7 | Words: 2007
Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Medical ethics refers to the range of moral policies and procedures during medical practice, which demand medical practitioners to provide the best for their patient and place the patient’s concern before their own. It is a collection of values and principles, which define what is right or wrong and help to govern medical moral behavior. Considerable amount of work has been done to straighten up issues of medical ethics, because of the high prevalence rate of controversies regarding the matter (Veatch 6). Every medical practitioner must remain vigilant on the present day legislation, concerning moral codes of conduct within their field. This will allow them to work within the law and set rules, to be followed universally.

On the other hand, cloning is a process that involves creating a genetically identical animal or plant from their parents through asexual means. The newly created organism with same genetic composition as the original is called a clone. This practice has been applied for a long time in reproduction of plants. However, when it was first used on animals, it sputtered sharp arguments among scientists and politicians, as well as the entire public over its morality. The first animal to be cloned was a sheep called Dolly, in 1996 (Milgram and Rantala 53). This paper will focus on the issues of medical ethics, as well as cloning, and how they relate to Shelley’s book on Frankenstein.

Medical Ethics

Medical practice is structured and formulated to enhance wellness of patients. Medical ethics are, therefore, based on this premise, to uphold the wellness of patients. This is accomplished through a set of moral standards, which accord doctors the duty to benefit their patients without causing any harm to them. Nevertheless, medical ethics is a complicated matter and dependent on the individual circumstances (Veatch 375). For instance, a person who is critically ill can undergo a very painful medical procedure. This process can be regarded as morally unacceptable if the illness is not very advanced. However, the medical procedure will be acceptable if it will save the patient’s life. This implies that medical ethics is a very debatable issue and should, therefore, be well scrutinized (Ruddick).

Firstly, the patient should be treated with dignity and respect. Provision of care is supposed to be customized for every patient. However, most of the time, it becomes challenging for physicians to offer care that matches the need of patients. This occurs mainly when resources are scarce, and they are needed to make efficient use of them. As a result, some important details can be foregone owing to the constrained resources (Knott). For instance, in case of a disaster such as natural calamities, hospitals usually accommodate more than their optimum number, and patients are required to share beds sometimes. Although this is not acceptable, the seriousness of the situation changes the whole perspective. Ideally, the patient is entitled to care which is not preconditioned by age, resources, race or any other factor.

Another thing that doctors need to look at as a part of the medical ethics is on confidentiality. This is an element in the doctor-patient relationship, which directs that any information shared by a patient or realized during the process of medication is private. This implies that the information cannot be revealed to third parties (Veatch 11). However, the information can be shared only when the patient specifies and authorizes this to be done. Confidentiality of patient information is both a moral duty by doctors and, at the same time, a legal phenomenon, which is guarded by various laws. Violation of confidential information is highly punishable by law in most countries. It can also have negative implications on the reputation of the physician.

The concept of informed consent authorizes medical practitioners to keep their patients fully updated at all levels of treatment and check ups. The patient can be engaged in a conversation by a physician or be required to sign some documents to inform him or her about the medical procedure and the risk involved (Veatch 188). The idea of informed consent was started after WWII when people in the concentration camps were used as specimens for experiments without their own consent (Wisegeek). Researchers who were involved in these acts were convicted and punished highly by law. It was an occurrence which raised a moral question for physicians.

Informed consent requires that both the patient and the research matter, as well as the doctor to take an active part in the treatment procedure. They should take part in every step of decision making process. In addition, the patient should be fully aware of the consequences of engaging in such a medical procedure. Rules and guidelines that exist and make up the concept of informed consent focus on the importance of human rights (Wisegeek). The same law specifies that in case a patient is mentally or physically not able to sign the consent agreement with the doctor, a representative, who is mainly the next of kin, is allowed to authorize the dealings.

The physician briefs the patient on his health condition and expected results from a medical procedure that he or she is about to enter into. He is also given other options together with the one recommended by the medical practitioner (Knott). After discussing all the requirements in the consent form, the patient is required to sign it. In case a patient causes dispute later on during treatment, this evidence is used to defend the doctor in a court of law.

Other ethical issues within the medical field include abortion. In case a patient is admitted for having a delivery defect, will it be morally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy? Also, the issue of abortion raises questions on when life actually begins. It is quite a controversial matter, because, sometimes, the life of the mother could be at a great risk and abortion is seen as the only alternative to save her life.

Furthermore, morality surrounds the issue of organ donation and transplant. It raises questions of whether it is acceptable or not to offer incentives and compensation to people who donate their organs. Also, the process of harvesting another person’s organs just before he dies poses a question of whether one life should be sacrificed for another (Ethics of Organ Transplantation 25). There has been observed disagreement between the person whose life may be coming to an end and another one who requires the organ, so desperately to live. It would be morally unacceptable to hasten death to save another life.


As mentioned earlier on, the first successful cloning of a sheep was done in 1997. It raised fierce debate on this issue, with some people welcoming it while others greatly opposed to the practice. The basic concept on cloning involves the development of unfertilized eggs into full adults through the process called parthenogenesis. The process is carried out in favorable environment using some chemical stimulus. Scientists transplant genetic code from a differentiated cell into the unfertilized one, which does not possess any genetic material to facilitate cloning (Milgram and Rantala 5). Cloning occurs naturally through asexual reproduction of organisms such as in bacteria. Also, identical twins are clones to each other because they occur when a fertilized ovum divides to create two genetically identical fetuses. Artificial cloning still occurs, which include gene cloning, reproductive, as well as therapeutic cloning. Gene cloning involves the production of identical genes or parts of a DNA material (Milgram and Rantala 201). On the other hand, reproductive cloning involves the production of an animal that is identical to its parent. Lastly, therapeutic cloning involves the production of stem cells for fetuses to restore the damaged tissues.

For over half a century, scientists have been carrying out experiments on how to clone various animals employing diverse cloning techniques. In 1962, a scientist called John Gurdon from Oxford University reported to have cloned frogs from intestinal cells of a parent frog in South Africa (Web Site About Cloning). Later on in 1969, the first gene was separated by James Shapiero and Jonathan Beckwith from Harvard University. Cracking of the genetic code pioneered other experiments and innovations in genetic engineering. A Danish scientist managed to clone a sheep from embryo cells in 1984 (Web Site About Cloning). However, it was not until July 5 1996, that Dolly, a sheep clone was born after being developed from an udder cell of a six year old parent (Milgram and Rantala 41). Later on, cloning has been done on other animals such as cows, mice, and other domestic animals. In January 2000, Britain became the first nation to authorize cloning of humans from embryos. Later the same year, scientists who had cloned Dolly reported that they had successfully cloned pigs (Web Site About Cloning). Apparently, the issue of human cloning still remains fictitious although in 2002, the first human clone of a baby girl named Eve was reported to have been successfully produced.

How Medical Ethics and Cloning are involved in Frankenstein

The recent popular outlook of Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein is that it explains the horrors that arise after scientific experimentation; science leading to acute tragedies. Contrary to this fallacious belief, the novel is very far from this. Though tragedy and evil are the primary themes of the novel, an intensive engagement with it reveal that science has the capacity to improve the human condition, and it also gives reasons as to why such an experiment went wrong. The novel is a balanced text based on the ethics of conducting research that relate to human subjects and that which are applicable even today as it was when the book was written. Shelley conceived the perception of writing the text in 1816, and that is when she started writing it up to 1818 when it was first published. The books historical context reveals that the earlier 17th and 18th centuries had experienced earlier signs of the rise of experimentation and science.

Mary Shelley undoubtedly had exposure with electricity experiments and galvanism; perhaps through her parents, whose friends included experimentalists. Shelley’s husband had also conducted his personal experiments. The preface of the book that was later written by Percy Bysshe Shelley explains a much deeper meaning of the text (BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & Institute of Medical Ethics p6). He explained that the story gets an outlook on the imagination of the people’s enthusiasm much in-depth and authoritatively than any other that usual relations of evident events can provide. Bearing this in mind, it is thus obvious that such a work will ever explore moral issues that are likely to follow its creation. Ridiculously, despite Shelley’s expression of disgust of presuming divine powers and bringing forth the human life, the book neither condemns Frankenstein, the monster’s creator, nor his actions.

Issues Discussed In Frankenstein and Their Contemporary Significance

Though the story is told as a cautionary tale, the text also bears the element of appreciation of scientific experimentation (World Health Organization 16). The main human characters, Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton, realize the power of knowledge acquired from experiments. Through various instances in the novel like the letters from Walton to Margaret in which he explains how he had used experiment, it can be inferred that medical treatment has improved currently, and all these developments can be owed to experimentation. Another issue from the novel is that scientific testing can harm. Frankenstein vividly tells that his feelings made him believe that the secrets of nature had been revealed unto him. The novel explains how this can contribute to an unfavorable side of science. Presently, it has also been noted that quest for knowledge may have very negative effects on the subjects (MedEducation p1).

Another important issue is that scientists are normal beings, and they are not species on their own. Frankenstein is compassionate learned man and not as evil as some might think as demonstrated by his concern for the monster and first agrees to create a companion for it. Finally, the novel insists that scientists cannot be separated from the society. Scientists, however, have to follow medical ethics in their career (BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & Institute of Medical Ethics p11).

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