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In his piece, ‘In vitro eugenics’,1 Robert Sparrow argues that the use of pluripotent stem cell–derived gametes (PSCDGs) for in vitro multi-generational human genetics is likely to be used as a technology of human enhancement, ‘allowing researchers to use all the techniques of selective breeding to produce human individuals with a desired genotype’. The author's goal is to prompt and inform a scholarly discussion about this technological advance and its application in human reproduction. While Sparrow does an excellent job of laying out the relevant scientific and ethical issues,i his choice of language in some cases is problematic and distracts from the important debate about human germline genetic modification in which societies must engage prior to the birth of the first genetically modified baby,ii from any technology.
While I fully support the aim of the paper, I am concerned that Sparrow's use of language is at times both inaccurate and inflammatory. For example, in vitro multi-generational human genetics can only be understood as ‘in vitro eugenics’ if the goal is, in fact, to use the technology for reproduction. The word ‘eugenics’ describes “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.”iii If the science never leaves the lab bench, and the selected embryos are used solely for research and never in an effort to produce a baby who may grow and live among the rest of us, …
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