Ethos Education

Never Let Me Go: What factors should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to create cloned human beings?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of different forms of reproductive technology and genetic engineering.
  • Understanding of different arguments for and against reproductive technology.
  • Consideration of future consequences of current advances in reproductive technology.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon what constitutes fairness.
  • Reflect upon the implications of cloning people as a source of spare parts for others.
  • Analyse arguments for and against the legalisation of reproductive human cloning.
  • Analyse source material to identify factors which would be important for a specifically Christian perspective on cloning.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a series of diary entries of someone who was cloned in order to donate their vital organs to save other peoples’ lives.


Ask the students to all stand up. Now ask them to remain standing if they agree with the statements you read out (get everyone standing again after each statement).

  • Fairness means everybody having the same opportunities.
  • Fairness means everybody having their say.
  • A fair society is one which provides the best outcomes for as many people as possible.
  • Sometimes the ends justify the means, even if it means some people suffering.
  • Everybody should pay the same amount of tax, regardless of how much or little money they earn.
  • Everybody should have the same access to medical treatment, regardless of wealth.
  • If a small number of people suffer in order for the majority to enjoy great benefits, that is a price worth paying.

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be exploring some of the themes raised by those questions, and in particular you are going to be looking at the question of reproductive technology and medical treatment.


The clip comes from the film Never Let Me Go (20th Century Fox, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.

Explain that the clip is set in 1978 and takes place at a very special school. In this clip, some of the children at that school are about to find out just how special they are. Ask the students to consider the revelation that the teacher has for the children, and to think about what it would be like to hear such news.

  • Start time:     0.21.45 (beginning of chapter 7 of the DVD)
  • End time:      0.26.09
  • Clip length:   4 minutes and 24 seconds

The clip starts with rain falling against a classroom window. The first line is Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) saying, ‘The problem is, you’ve been told and not told.’ The clip ends at the end of the assembly.

Ask the students how they think they might feel if they discovered that they had been bred solely for the purpose of providing spare parts for someone else. Is it fair that the donor children be denied a normal life in order to enable others to be cured of potentially life-threatening conditions?

If the students feel that the treatment of the donor children is not fair, ask them to consider the argument put forward by the headmistress (Charlotte Rampling). Is it true that the tide of popular opinion is never with forward thinking? Do the wider benefits of the donor programme outweigh the high cost paid by those who were born for the purpose of having their vital organs harvested?

During the above discussion, you may find it helpful to summarise the situation that is outlined to the children (and which becomes clearer through the rest of the film). These children have been cloned from unknown people (there is a rumour among the children that the ‘originals’ who provided the DNA were outcasts in society – drug addicts, criminals, etc) for the sole purpose of providing donor organs for others. At some point in young adulthood, they will be called upon to donate a major organ. Some time later, they will donate again and so on until they ‘complete’ – that is to say, until their body becomes incapable of supporting life and they die. Some ‘complete’ after just one donation, some survive as many as four donations. In late teens, donors can volunteer to become carers. If chosen their own donations will be delayed by a few years, and they will be expected to support and care for other donors going through the donation process.

Now bring the lesson back to the real world. Ask the students to imagine that they have the choice of making it legal to clone humans. Put the students in small groups, assigning each group one side of the debate and telling them to come up with a list of arguments to defend that position. Halfway through the exercise, you could tell each group to swap sides, so that everyone has the chance to think of arguments for and against. Now feed back their arguments, and discuss them with the class. Which arguments are the most persuasive? If they had to vote on the matter, which way would they vote? If you wanted, you could hold an actual debate on the subject in a subsequent lesson, telling students to write a speech as a homework exercise.

With reference to the web pages listed below, ask the students what they would expect a Christian perspective on cloning to be. Which of the factors that you discussed previously would you expect a Christian to consider important? Which other factors as yet undiscussed would play an important part in shaping a distinctively Christian approach to the subject of cloning?

Photocopy and give out all or some of the following:

Click to access cnr.pdf

Allow time for the students to read the source material and discuss in groups, then feed back their findings to the whole class. Try to help them to draw out a distinctively Christian response to cloning.


Play a second clip from Never Let Me Go. This clip comes from the beginning of the film, showing a scene which the film returns to for its conclusion. In this scene one of the children from the school, Kathy (Carey Mulligan) now grown up, speaks a voiceover where she reflects on her life. Ask the students to pay particular attention to both the positive and negative emotions that she touches upon.

  • Start time:     0.01.20 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:      0.03.05
  • Clip length:   1 minute 45 seconds

The clip starts when the green background to the opening titles changes to blue and captions start appearing. The first caption is, ‘The breakthrough in medical science came in 1952.’ The first line is Kathy saying, ‘My name is Kathy H.’ The clip ends shortly after the scene shifts back to Kathy’s memories of her schooldays. The last line is Kathy (still in voiceover) saying, ‘…me, Tommy and Ruth.’

Allow a few minutes for the students to discuss the mixed emotions evident in Kathy’s voiceover. Once they have done so, ask them to write a number of entries in a diary, written from the perspective of a donor or carer in the world of Never Let Me Go. Their diary should reflect upon the rights and wrongs of genetic engineering and clone technology and show an understanding of a specifically Christian approach to the subject (although the diaries do not necessarily have to agree with that point of view).


  • A copy of Never Let Me Go and the means to play it.
  • Copies of articles from the Church of England website.

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