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March 11, 2019

Hopes, Fears, and Deja Vu Regarding Germline Gene Editing

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(5):411-412. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0098

The fundamental question in the debate about germline gene editing (GLGE) is whether we should accept that there will always be some infants who will be born with genetic diseases or whether we should to try to eliminate those diseases. The flipside question is whether the desire to tinker with the world is itself pathological and likely to make us worse off.

The recent report from China of the use of GLGE stimulated 2 very different types of criticisms: one focused on issues about the integrity and quality of the science, particularly on financial conflicts of interest, study design, the adequacy of the informed consent used, and the accuracy of the reported results, and a second set focused on whether reproduction is so sacrosanct that any attempt to alter it is straightforwardly unethical. Such concerns have arisen in the past in response to oral contraceptives, amniocentesis, in vitro fertilization, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and they appear now for GLGE. I will briefly discuss both sets of concerns.

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