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, 25 (2), 137-152

The Wisdom of Germline Editing: An Ethical Analysis of the Use of CRISPR-Cas9 to Edit Human Embryos

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The Wisdom of Germline Editing: An Ethical Analysis of the Use of CRISPR-Cas9 to Edit Human Embryos

Jennifer M Gumer. New Bioeth.

Abstract

With recent reports that a Chinese scientist used CRISPR-Cas9 to heritably edit the genomes of human embryos (i.e., germline editing) brought to term, discussions regarding the ethics of the technology are urgently needed. Although certain applications of germline editing have been endorsed by both the National Academy of Sciences (US) and the Nuffield Council (UK), this paper explores the ethical concerns related even to such therapeutic uses of the technology. Additionally, this paper questions whether the technology could ever feasibly be contained to the therapeutic realm. Consequently, this paper necessarily considers the ethical concerns related to enhancement uses of the technology even if only therapeutic applications are initially considered. In light of the concomitant risks, this paper assesses the technology's countervailing benefits to conclude they do not prevail given that similar outcomes can largely be achieved with existing technologies. Consequently, this paper recommends an international ban on germline editing.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9; designer babies; eugenics; genetics; germline editing.

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