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Gene Editing and the Rise of Designer Babies

Posted by on Tuesday, July 4, 2017 in Blog, Left column, Notes, Vol. 50 No. 3, Volume 50, Volumes.

Nearly as long as human beings have existed on this earth, many people have sought out the ideal of perfecting their population: infanticide in Sparta during the Hellenistic era; compulsory sterilization in the 1920s in the United States; and the unimaginable atrocities of the Holocaust in the 1940s in Europe. The goal of alleged perfection leaves many hesitant to repeat the mistakes of our past. Today, a new frontier of science has emerged, gene editing using CRISPR-Cas9, reigniting ethical debate as to how far humans should go in manipulating the population.

While many proponents herald this technology as a potential for eradicating devastating genetic disease, some critics fear that it presents an opportunity to pre-select “desirable” traits in offspring, which is expounded by a lack of clear scientific and ethical regulations in the United States and abroad. Though the National Academies of Science and Medicine recently began an initiative to address the implications of this technology, this body can only provide a recommendation. This Note looks to the technology, historical eugenics’ concerns, domestic and foreign law, and the recommendations of the Academies, in proposing a two-part solution to address the concerns surrounding “designer babies”: reinforcing United States research laws and revising the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights.

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  • Evan Guthrie

    August 10th, 2017

    Very interesting subject that will no doubt be more prevalent in the future. Thanks.

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