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The Ethics of Human Genome Editing: Designer Babies

Why this topic?

This topic is interesting to me because we talked about it in class. We talked about the pros and cons and overpopulation came about. Overpopulation has always been something I have found really interesting because what are we going to do to solve that issue aside from the most obvious way (to kill people) which is probably seen more negatively than say let someone live with a genetic disorder and die earlier. Another thing that we talked about was the concept of ‘fixing’ people with genetic disorders. For example, I have a friend that has a disformity in his arm/hand and when asked, he said he wouldn’t change anything about him. He can still do all that every else can do and he is happy, so why is is that genome editing is so centered around fixing individuals as if something is wrong with them?

What is genetic editing?

Watch this quick video that explains what CRISPR technology is and how it works

now, babies

Watch Paul Knoepfler give a TedTalk about the ethics of designer babies:

Knoepfler brings up what life would be like if we were to GM (genetically modified) babies

Ethical Questions to Keep in Mind:

  1. Should we be using genome editing tools in general (human, animal etc) and do we have the right?

2. Are we doing more harm than good by editing genomes?

3. Is genome editing accessible to all and what cases should it be ‘acceptable’ to use in if ‘acceptable’ at all?

4. Have we gone too far in our use of genome editing?


Now after learning about all of this, share your thoughts and consider what you would do.

My Thoughts:

Works Cited Link

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COMMENTS: 11
  1. April 26, 2019 by Aria Chang

    Hi Erica,

    Before your project, I haven’t really heard of this topic! I didn’t really think that is was possible to edit out certain genomes. Ethically, I think that if we could edit out things like mutations and such that could lead to an increased risk of cancer, giving someone a better quality of life, then there would be a case for that. For things such as eye color and hair texture though, I think that it would be unfair of parents to make such a choice. If you want to do that, go buy a doll or something.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. April 26, 2019 by Aneesha.Kumar

    Hi Eric, I really enjoyed reading your project! I thought your bioethical chart from different perspectives was very well done and well thought through. My question for you would be: in your discussion of the topic you justified not using this technology at all (even for diseases) but do you feel it is ethical for a doctor to have a solution to removing the disease yet chose not to? Wouldn’t the lessening of diseases increase the resources available?

    • April 27, 2019 by Erica

      Hi! No worries about that! I personally do not think that is ethical but, it’s almost like opening Pandora’s box. Also, are you talking about patients already born or still developing because that changes my response a bit. In a sense, I believe that if someone is meant to be born with said disease, they were meant to and we shouldn’t mess with it. I think that we should prioritize helping those that are already born then those that are unborn. Also, as Dana said, the slippery slope is something I want to avoid so voiding the practice as a whole eliminates the possibility of it being used for the wrong reasons. Furthermore, I do not think that the lessoning of diseases would increase the resources available because Earth has a capacity which we have already exceeded. Although we may be healthier and stronger, that doesn’t change the amount of water available or stop global warming. Hope that answers your questions!

  3. April 26, 2019 by Aneesha.Kumar

    I am so sorry – I meant to type Erica

  4. April 26, 2019 by Dana Bettinger

    Aneesha, I envision that this is very much a “slippery slope” issue, which might begin with disease avoidance but rapidly descend into the scenario that Erica describes in the Flipgrid. In a society where we already value beauty and youth (and whiteness, and a narrow view of bodies, and of gender presentation) so highly, I could see gene editing going sideways easily. Author Scott Westerfield wrote an interesting young adult trilogy about a variant of this idea (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uglies_series).

  5. April 28, 2019 by Michaela Kim

    Hi Erica, thanks for the super interesting and informative webpage! I think it’s awesome how you have multiple ways to interact with your site; it made it super engaging. Also being a bioethics student, it was really fun diving deeper into our current unit (genetic editing) and also seeing another student’s perspective on this topic. Something that I was wondering though, is how other countries are handling this issue (like that Chinese scientist who edited the genome of the twins!), and whether you think it’ll affect how the US handles this issue. Because this is such a worldwide issue, I’m interested to see how it’s going to play out! Again, awesome page!

    • April 28, 2019 by Erica

      Hi Michaela! Thank you for that! In respect to other countries, as far as I know, the Chinese scientist did it without alerting others and/or did not tell the parents. My friend told me recently that you can’t find the whereabouts of that baby on the internet anymore. I think America could either use that as an example/excuse to be stricter or looser in terms of regulating this technology. I think that society is more alert about it so America could try to play it safer (terms of use and application) to not upset society, or they could use it as a justification for whatever they are doing and say ‘oh at least we’re doing XYZ that the scientist in China didn’t do”. I really hope that America does not use it as an excuse and chooses to set a better example because we are such a powerful country.

  6. April 29, 2019 by Sidney.Shah

    Hi Erica,
    I found your page really interesting, and although I knew a little bit about CRISPR, I did not know as much about the ethics behind it, and since reading this I have learned how important they are. Although I agree with the fact that we could use genome editing to our advantage in terms of eliminating harmful diseases, I do think it gets dangerous when we have to approach the question of what is considered perfect. This is a really relevant topic, and I think we will soon start seeing even more news and headlines about it as well.

  7. April 29, 2019 by Anjali.Mirmira

    Hi Erica! Great presentation. What always interests me about subjects like this are the possible evolutionary consequences. “Evolution” in the microscopic sense can occur in a very short period of time. Throughout your research, did you ever come upon anything that might suggest that “designer” humans might alter the definition of who is “fit” in society? Could this redefine “survival of the fittest” for a 21st century take?

    • April 30, 2019 by Erica

      Hi Anjali! I didn’t come across any specific research that showed that, but I believe that it’s not that far of a stretch. I think that by ‘designing’ babies, we are inherently saying who is ‘more fit’, or at least ‘more desirable’. For example, I think ‘survival of the fittest’ could say eliminate those with non-perfect vision, under a certain height etc. If more and more people were to get there hands on this technology, I definitely see the definition of multiple concepts changing. I hope that helps!

  8. May 01, 2019 by Maya

    Hi Erica! I loved your presentation. I loved how you talked about the ethical implications of the topic and how that relates back to society. After reading about it here, I definitely want to learn more about genome editing. I personally don’t really know where I stand on the topic. Thank you for helping me understand this topic better. Also, I love Never Let Me Go (such a good book).

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