Moving Beyond ‘Therapy’ and ‘Enhancement’ in the Ethics of Gene Editing by Bryan Cwik (Portland State University/Philosophy and University Studies)
Date: 3:30pm PDT April 12 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 202
J.R. Howard Hall 202
Since the advent of recombinant DNA technology, expectations (and trepidations) about the potential for altering genes and controlling our biology at the fundamental level have been sky high. These expectations have gone largely unfulfilled. The ability to eliminate all inherited diseases, choose traits, and make ourselves stronger, faster, and smarter is not in our foreseeable future. But though the dream (or nightmare) of being able to control our biology is still far off, gene editing research has made enormous strides towards potential clinical uses in reproductive medicine. My aim in is to argue that when it comes to determining permissible uses of gene editing in one important medical context – germ line intervention in reproductive medicine – issues about enhancement and eugenics are, for the foreseeable future, a red herring. Current research is taking us in a different direction, and discussions about the ethics of enhancement are of limited use in the place we appear to be headed. Arguing about the permissibility of enhancement can do little to solve the issues we’re likely to encounter there, and drawing the line of permissibility at therapeutic uses of gene editing leaves unresolved important questions that need attention if clinical use of gene editing in reproductive medicine ever becomes a possibility. Given the rapid pace of development in research on germ line gene editing, these issues are in urgent need of attention by bioethicists and philosophers of medicine. And this urgency is matched by their degree of difficulty.