The Nuffield Council on Bioethics located in the UK came to a bold conclusion on genetic modification of human DNA. According to the council, it could be morally permissible to modify a human embryo if the child’s future health is in danger. There are many concerns about the ethics, morality, and legality of this process.
The new report by the medical ethics body titled Genome editing and human reproduction: social and ethical issues, encourages more research in practical safety and the effectiveness of genetic modification. While it calls for a broad debate on the topic, it does stress that DNA-altering attempts are permissible from a moral standpoint.
The report goes on to, controversially, state genetic editing is permissible in curing hereditary diseases and defective genes as well as genetically enhance humans before their birth. This course of action would only go into practice if it has no ill effects in society. The possibility of so-called enhanced humans makes many worry about a dystopian world inhabited by designer babies.
Dr. David King, the Human Genetics Alert director, said the Nuffield Council’s report is a disgrace. He mentions the international bans on eugenic genetic engineering for three decades. However, these scientists think they know better even when there is no medical benefit to this at all. He goes on to say those in Britain decided a decade and a half ago they didn’t want GM food, but now there’s talk of GM babies.
Could this be the Gilded Age of Genetic Modification?
Under UK law, designer babies are illegal. There is currently a law allowing the genetic editing of human embryos for research only. After the study is complete, the embryos must be destroyed. Foreign scientists are working with experiments that rewrite the DNA in living cells found in sperm, eggs, and fetuses to hopefully cure inherited genetic diseases. Researchers have warned that the procedure in doing so include gene-editing technology and remains unsafe. The process can cause damage to the DNA it attempts to fix.
The problem of designer babies has been a favorite topic in society and popular culture. The primary concern is the new technology could be a tool only accessible for the super-rich.
Based on the findings by the Nuffield Council, they recommend the government establish an individual body to promote a broad, public discussion of the matter. Should the law be changed, they want gene editing considered on a case-by-case basis.
The report showed much concern over social media users on the frightening moral implications of this new possible reality. Some warn about global conflict, while others reference Sy-Fy sources like Gattaca.
On the other hand, others decided the only response was to find humor in the situation. One mentioned the money they’d save if their child were their own night light. Meanwhile, another asked when superpowers would be in the works.