Not Conscious? If you don’t mind, I’d just like to borrow an organ or two…
In the 2005 film, The Island, conscious clones are harvested for their organs. In the middle of the film, we learn that Dr. Merrick, the mastermind behind the operation, is lying to the public, claiming that the clones never obtain consciousness.
There are logical reasons why he would make such a claim. Without consciousness, none of us would ever have the experiences and created individualities that make us all unique. Consciousness is the basis of how we distinguish ourselves from other species, and in many ways, it is what makes us “human.” If the public was to understand that Dr. Merrick’s clones were alive, there would be no end to the public’s unease with organ harvesting from “human” clones. Then again, there are those individuals who will do anything to survive. Lincoln’s sponsor Tom Lincoln, who claims to want to help Lincoln, turns on his clone, saying that he apologizes, but he wants to live.
In class, we have been asked: “Would you take organs from a clone?” For me, it would depend on the context. If the clones never obtain consciousness, as the public is told in The Island, I would say yes, the same way I would say yes to abortions, if the fetuses have not obtained consciousness. After all, what have these beings lost? They do not experience pain, sadness, or loss. Without thoughts and understanding, they have not knowingly missed anything. And if you believe in a just God of some sort, I doubt fetuse’s/clone’s soul would be unfairly sent to suffer in eternal fire. Another argument may be that the mothers of aborted fetuses will be affected by the deaths of their fetuses. Unconscious clones will not have known have grown relationships with others, and thus this would not be a problem. The death of conscious clones who have had real human relations will be seen as a loss to others.
If clones are conscious, here’s nothing distinguishes me from a clone in terms of “humanness,” if we both have experiences and knowingly are our own unique beings. The only thing differing between us would be that for the clone, there would be another individual with identical physical features, which in no way has anything to do with our uniqueness as individuals in terms of thoughts, beliefs, and personalities, which in our society of today, we believe should be more valued than physical attributes.
Thus, if the clones and I are equally human, what I am really being asked is: “Would I be willing to take the life of another human being to survive?” This question has been asked in dozens of modern films of today, from the Saw series to Alive. In Saw, individuals are promised their own survival if they are able to kill the others in the most brutal of ways; Alive is based on a true story of survival cannibalism, where survivors of a plane crash resort to eating one another while stranded in the Andes mountains. This concept is pictured less horrendously in The Island when Tom and Lincoln make their final desperate pleas for survival, by trying to prove themselves to be the real Tom Lincoln to the mercenary sent to extinguish the clone.
If I were ever placed in every-man-for-himself circumstances, I’d like to think that my human morals and values would keep me mentally strong enough to resist the animalistic instincts to want to survive. But I honestly don’t know what I’d do if something like that ever occurred. Let’s just hope that we’ll never be stranded on an abandoned island together, because in all the chaos, I could very well be that person gnawing on your elbows.