Do you think gene editing is considered ethical or moral? Is it right for human beings to tamper with something so vitally important as our DNA? As the possibility for more advanced genetic modifications even in human beings becomes increasingly probable a lot of ethical challenges and questions are still left unanswered, its time to push these conversations a lot more aggressively before its too late.
In a recent article published by Forbes entitled 'Advances In Genetics Are Setting Off A Fresh Wave Of Ethical Concerns' some interesting details were presented regarding this issue and some extremely valid questions were posed.
For example, what are some ethical challenges that may arise from advances in genetic modifications?
Well, I think tampering with human beings in an effort to create 'super-humans' is essentially delegating normal people to a sub-class of humanoid more than a bit worrying.
So lets have a look first at how far we have come in terms of regulation around this practice. Just a few weeks ago, an FDA panel approved a gene editing technique to cure a rare form of congenital blindness called Leber congenital aumaurosis (LCA).
This in itself is promising and a worthy application of gene editing. The cure for congenital forms of blindness is one of the gene editing techniques is apparently an area that geneticists have made a lot of progress in. For example, they have been able to gene edit out red/green color blindness in squirrel monkeys since at least 2009. It's interesting to know that the cure for LCA was discovered around the same time.
The FDA is clearly making strides to approve genetic editing in
a humane way. There will be benefits to applying genetic editing to curing illness and disease and this alone is proof that simplying eliminating genetic editing is not an option when it provides so much potential benefit in ending human suffering.
But hold on for a minute, we must ask the question here, just because we can cure some things, does it mean that we should?
This is an interesting moral dilemma which seems comparable to playing god. How would nature deal with these diseases? Why do these diseases exist in the first place? Some may argue that this is a biological safety mechanism to control populations on a planet.
Here's another perspective. In a book written by Andrew Solomon called Far From the Tree, the author brings up the deaf communities of the world in a way we might not imagine them. He talks about them as not just people living with sensory deprivation, but rather they represent a rich thriving culture, with members who would readily argue that their senses, thanks to deafness, are enhanced.
So, we have reached a true moral dilemma, if the deaf really need to be “cured," whose decides to do it? Hearing parents who want a child like themselves? The child?
And at what age is someone old enough to make this life changing decision? Should it be at Age 5? Should it be at Age 18?
Perhaps when they grow up and possibly fall in love with someone in the hearing world or have hearing children?
Then wouldn't the opposite also be available? What if people had the ability to choose deafness by the same token? Perhaps some deaf parents may decide it would be best to take away the sense of hearing from a hearing child so they would have the opportunity to “fit in” better with their family?
This poses another interesting factor in the debate. Is being deaf truly a disease? Could it not be a blessing in some ways or at bare minimum, nature's way of creating diversity and the potential for limitless experiences. I'm not arguing that people born deaf shouldn't have the option of gaining their sense of hearing. If modern medical therapies can provide that for them by all means, I do believe it should be offered.
This past summer, CBS reported that genetic testing had become so commonplace in Iceland, that pregnancies with embryos believed to have three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two, were routinely terminated. It needs to be emphasized that the population of Iceland is under 350,000, and the average Down’s birth was two per year, however, recently, so few babies have been born with Down Syndrome, that if this trend continues, eventually no one with Down’s will be born in Iceland. While many people would argue that people with Down’s are less healthy and experience more challenges, others would say, many live long healthy lives and are better for those challenges.
This technology clearly presents an evolutionary advantage for the 'haves' but what about the 'have-nots?'
This question has me a bit boggled and confused I'm afraid.
On one hand, I don't wish Down Syndrome upon anyone or their family but on the other hand can humanity provide this advantage to the billions of future parents living on this planet?
I am however amazed to learn that Iceland is implementing genetic screening and I'm quite happy to see technology being used in a positive and humane way. I just wish this wasn't solely an advantage received in so called 'first-world' countries and applied to the developing and third world countries as well.
Finally here are a few more questions that we need to pose and get the world's medical / genetic scientific community to come to agreement upon:
Who owns our DNA brings up its own host of complicated questions. If I ask you, who should own your DNA, what is your gut answer? You, right? We should each own our own DNA. But let me kill the suspense here, if you do 23andMe or any of those other boutique genome mapping experiences that tells you your ethnic background - YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR DNA.
So do we own our DNA or not? Should we be more careful and develop stronger moral and ethical guidelines before persuing more advanced gene editing methods in application to human beings? What do you guys think about this?
Please leave your thoughts and feedback below!
Thanks for reading.
Written by @techblogger
Advances In Genetics Are Setting Off A Fresh Wave Of Ethical Concerns - Forbes