Friday, December 7, 2018

Gene Editing

I once read there was a time a couple thousand years ago when the great ethical question in medicine was whether or not piercing the skin was morally acceptable or not. Since then we've discovered and become quite familiar with various internal organs. Surgeons who operate on them are internists.

The great ethical question in medicine during our time seems to center on our arrival at the cusp of being able to modify and control the human genome. Will the human genome become as familiar to medicine as internal organs are today? Will we even have a name for specialists who can reprogram human development?

If we can do these things in a way that respects, honors, and values human life, and assuming the Lord tarries, then medical advancements in genetics seem they could acceptably move in this direction. Maybe there will be mistakes and someone ends up with purple hair, but those people would still be human and deserve full protection of their God-given rights as anyone else.

After He Jiankui announced he had modified twin baby genes, the reaction has been largely negative. The criticism begins with the lack of peer input in his experiments and the level of disclosure to participants in his clinical trial.

This happened in China. This is not exactly a land known for its freedom of public communication right now, so to criticize an academic for not having an open public discussion with his peers may be a bit unfair.

I find a couple things noteworthy about the public discussion, even countries with freedom of expression.

1. Where is the positive forward-looking view of gene editing?

2. The accessibility of the CRISPR technology may have in fact facilitated the independent nature of this work.

We've already modified genes in food. I know Europe is not a fan, but as we continue to be fruitful and multiply filling the earth, accelerated food production could be a great blessing.

If we could modify genes in people to reduce transfer of disease and risky conditions, I'm having a hard time seeing how this is bad.

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