Genetic editing or the CRISPR gene-editing method, has raised many controversies since it is currently the most promising technique in health care. Genetically modifying human embryos to eliminate disease-causing genes, should this be allowed? Let’s find out.
Arguments for and Against Genetic Editing
In February 2016, the second trial involving genetic editing of the human embryo using the CRISPR method was approved in the U.K. by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. This was after the Institute of Francis Crick requested permission to conduct the trails using this technique.
Proponents of this technique state the removing disease-causing genes from human embryo means removing the faulty script from their descendant’s genetic code. This will eliminate serious genetic disease and reduce human suffering worldwide.
Nonetheless, opponents of the same state that this process is unnatural and dangerous, and does not consider the consent unborn humans.
Who is right?
The first argument is that this method amounts to mocking God, and it is unnatural. The argument is based on the principle that natural is a good thing. Nonetheless, humans around the world die from natural diseases. If natural creatures and phenomena would be protected on the premise that they are natural, then using medicines to cure diseases would not be acceptable.
Healthcare systems in first-world countries can be termed as part of “a comprehensive attempt to frustrate the course of nature.” The argument is that natural is neither good nor bad. These treatments, if supported by evidence, can be better than unnatural means.
Who Gives the Consent in Genetic Editing?
The issue of consent was raised by the National Health Institute director, Francis Collins, who stated that “Ethical issues presented by altering the germline in a way that affects the next generation without their consent,” and that, they constitute “strong arguments against engaging in this practice.”
The issue of consent does not make sense because we always make decisions for future generations. For instance, parents make decisions affecting their children, either because they are too young to decide or because they are yet to be born. Another example is when Isadora Duncan and Bernard Shaw discuss their future kid’s features, and she says “why don’t we make a baby together…with my looks and your brains, it cannot fail”. However, Shaw gave a sober response by stating “Yes but what if it has my looks and your brains!” Both statements show that they allow the child no choice.
Children are Being Born with Serious Birth Defects
Other debates state that this method has many risks as regards to human health. Nonetheless, the arguments fail to consider the inherent dangers present in the natural reproduction way. About 6% of total births around the world or 8 million children are born with serious defects every year. These defects are genetic or involve partial genetic origin.
It’s important to assess all the risks involved, but it would be wrong to delay the decision to continue this research since it may cost many lives. Currently, many people are suffering from single-gene disorders, namely Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis, which can be averted using this technique. As such, this decision should consider all options.