ADSactly Tech News - The Ethics of Gene Editing
ADSactly Tech News: The Ethics of Gene Editing
As the possibility of gene editing in human beings becomes increasingly probable a lot of ethical challenges and questions are still left unanswered. Is it morally or ethically right to tamper with the human genome in an effort to make more 'perfect' people with greater mental and physical attributes?
We can't wait for the scientific community and governments to approach these topics, now is the time to push these conversations a lot more aggresively before it's too late.
I recently read an article in Forbes that was called 'Advances In Genetics Are Setting Off A Fresh Wave Of Ethical Concerns' that was really quite interesting.
There were some questions presented that I think we really need to ask before continuing down this road.
Questions like, what ethical challenges will present themselves when it comes to genetic modifications?
Is humanity really on a mission 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 appears to be allowing genetic editing in a limited way in an effort to cautiously help cure genetic diseases. Because we can fix many of humanities genetic problems with this new technology it seems that eliminating genetic editing would be a bad move as well because 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?
Can you see the moral dilemma here? Is it right for us to be 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, this wouldn't be my stance but I know there are people out there that may feel this way.
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. Should we really a person affected by deafness as diseased? Couldn't this be 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.
I think its amazing that they've found a way to prevent births of children that would be born with Down Syndrome.
In regard to Down Syndrome, I feel deeply sorry for anyone who has it and the family members that have to cope with this being part of their loved one's life. But, on the other hand is it fair that rich first world nations can afford this kind of care. Do you think humanity could provide this advantage to the billions of future parents living on this planet?
Obviously, it would just be nice to see that this wasn't just an advantage received in so called 'first-world' countries but it also applied to the developing and third world countries as well.
There are just a few more questions I think we should be asking in hopes that the scientific and medical communities of the world will come together and ask these questions as well. More importantly we need them to agree upon the answers and we must hope the answers posed are agreeable with humanity.
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.
Authored by: @techblogger
In-text citations source: Advances In Genetics Are Setting Off A Fresh Wave Of Ethical Concerns - Forbes
Image Sources: Pexels.com, Phys.org