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September 18, 1972

Genetic Engineering

JAMA. 1972;221(12):1409. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200250048017

To the Editor.—  In his recent articles in The Journal (220:1346,1480,1972), Dr. Ramsey objects on ethical grounds to genetic experimentation and "test tube babies." As much as I share his basic concerns,1 I must disagree with the rigidity of his positions for, followed to their logical conclusions, they lead to a reductio ad absurdum.In his first article he argues thus: an accepted principle of medical ethics is primum non nocere, but in genetic experimentations in vitro we cannot guarantee a priori that there shall be no harm to the as yet unconceived person. Furthermore, it is an equally accepted principle of medical ethics that the subject experimented upon must give informed consent to accept the risks involved, which an unconceived person cannot possibly give. Ergo, all in vitro genetic experimentations with human subjects are ipso facto unethical, and should be stopped forthwith. In his second article he adds,