Human germline editing: science or fiction? (The Daniel W. Foster, M.D., Visiting Lectureship in Medical Ethics)

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Abstract

Since DNA was discovered, researchers have sought to treat disorders with genetic interventions. The CRISPR editing tool has made gene editing seem easy, thus highlighting scientific, medical, ethical, and policy problems that arise from the prospect of editing human embryos (and that were heightened by the "CRISPR babies" controversy). Editing human embryos creates inheritable changes that: could be harmful; raise questions about pursuing genetic enhancements rather than treatments; and risk prioritizing scientific progress over societal needs. Gene editing should be used for basic research to learn more about human development and disease. We should be very cautious about clinical applications; yet even calls for a moratorium have proven controversial. Improved transparency, robust discussion, global oversight, and increased education in ethics and genetics for scientists and the public may be best practices for this rapidly developing science, but are they achievable? And can they prevent future harms?

General Notes

The Daniel W. Foster, M.D. Visiting Lectureship In Medical Ethics (in conjunction with Ethics Grand Rounds). Tuesday, September 10, 2019; noon to 1 p.m.; Room D1.602. "Human Germline Editing: Science or Fiction?". Nancy M.P. King, J.D., Professor in the Department of Social Sciences & Health Policy and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Co-Director, Center for Bioethics, Health & Society and Graduate Program in Bioethics, Wake Forest University.

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