Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The moral argument for heritable genome editing requires an inappropriately deterministic view of genetics


Gyngell and colleagues consider that the recent Nuffield Council report does not go far enough: heritable genome editing (HGE) is not just justifiable in a few rare cases; instead, there is a moral imperative to undertake it. We agree that there is a moral argument for this, but in the real world it is mitigated by the fact that it is not usually possible to ensure a better life. We suggest that a moral imperative for HGE can currently only be concluded if one first buys into an overly deterministic view of a genome sequence, and the role of variation within in it, in the aetiology of the disease: most diseases cannot simply be attributed to specific genetic variants that we could edit away. Multiple, poorly understood genetic and environmental factors interact to influence the expression of diseases with a genetic component, even well understood ‘monogenic’ disorders. Population-level genome analyses are now demonstrating that many genetic ’mutations' are much less predictive than previously thought 1. Furthermore, HGE might introduce new risks just as it reduces old ones; or remove protections not yet clearly delineated.

  • ethics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you