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Is the ‘serious’ factor in germline modification really relevant? A response to Kleiderman, Ravitsky and Knoppers
  1. Iñigo De Miguel Beriain1,2
  1. 1 Derecho Publico, UPV/EHU, Bilbao, Spain
  2. 2 Basque Foundation for Science, Ikerbasque, Bilbao, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Iñigo De Miguel Beriain, Derecho Publico, UPV/EHU, Bilbao 48080, Spain; INIGO.DEMIGUELB{at}EHU.EUS


Should we use human germline genome modification (HGGM) only when serious diseases are involved? This belief is the underlying factor in the article written by Kleiderman, Ravitsky and Knoppers to which I now respond. In my opinion, the answer to this question should be negative. In this paper, I attempt to show that there are no good reasons to think that this technology should be limited to serious diseases once it is sufficiently proven to be safe and efficient. In fact, opting otherwise would negatively harm human beings’ right to the highest standard of health that unmodified embryos could promote. Therefore, the issue should not be so much to define adequately what a serious disease is, but rather to elucidate whether this concept should play any role beyond the context of preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). This paper argues that we should not accept the similarity between technologies such as PGT and HGGM because they face different challenges and offer totally different possibilities. Therefore, we are in urgent need to build a completely new ethical architecture that covers the application of germline editing in human embryos. As a part of that process, a much deeper debate on the necessity of distinguishing different disease types is required.

  • gene therapy/transfer
  • genetic selection
  • genetic engineering
  • ethics

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  • Contributors I am the only author of this article.

  • Funding This study was funded by Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad. Proyecto BIGDATIUS. DER2015-68212-R

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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