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Friday, January 4, 2019

Beyond safety questions, gene editing will force us to deal with a moral quandary

Josephine Johnston
STAT News
Originally published November 29, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The majority of this criticism is motivated by major concerns about safety — we simply do not yet know enough about the impact of CRISPR-Cas9, the powerful new gene-editing tool, to use it create children. But there’s a second, equally pressing concern mixed into many of these condemnations: that gene-editing human eggs, sperm, or embryos is morally wrong.

That moral claim may prove more difficult to resolve than the safety questions, because altering the genomes of future persons — especially in ways that can be passed on generation after generation — goes against international declarations and conventions, national laws, and the ethics codes of many scientific organizations. It also just feels wrong to many people, akin to playing God.

As a bioethicist and a lawyer, I am in no position to say whether CRISPR will at some point prove safe and effective enough to justify its use in human reproductive cells or embryos. But I am willing to predict that blanket prohibitions on permanent changes to the human genome will not stand. When those prohibitions fall — as today’s announcement from the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing suggests they will — what ethical guideposts or moral norms should replace them?

The info is here.
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