Discuss the array of attributes that could be modified through human genome editing that fall under the category of enhancement. What, if any, of these modifications should be permissible? What are the ethical issues surrounding human genome editing for enhancement? (250 words)
Read this article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447275/
What is human genome editing?
The recent advancements in human genome editing technology have opened up possibilities to modify human genetic makeup, enabling individuals to change their genetic traits or characteristics. Some of these changes also referred to as enhancements, can be aimed at improving certain attributes or qualities beyond the average or normal range. However, the use of genome editing for human enhancement raises significant ethical questions and concerns.
Attributes that Modifiable Through Human Genome Editing in the Category of Enhancement
There are various attributes that could be modified through human genome editing, falling under the category of enhancement. These modifications include:
- Physical characteristics: Genome editing can be used to enhance or alter physical attributes, such as height, muscle mass, and skin color. While some may argue that these modifications could help individuals achieve their desired physical appearance or address genetic disorders, it raises ethical concerns related to the potential misuse of technology, which could result in discrimination and social inequality.
- Intelligence: Some believe that genome editing could be used to enhance cognitive abilities such as intelligence, memory, and learning. However, these modifications raise ethical concerns related to the potential unequal distribution of cognitive enhancements, which could exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.
- Longevity: Genome editing could be used to modify genes associated with aging, which could lead to increased lifespan and healthier aging. However, this raises concerns about the potential for unequal distribution of these enhancements and the possibility of creating a new class of “genetically superior” individuals.
- Athletic performance: Genome editing could be used to enhance athletic performance by altering genes associated with endurance, strength, and recovery. However, this raises concerns about the potential misuse of technology in the world of sports, leading to unfair competition and the creation of “genetically enhanced” athletes.
Ethical Concerns Regarding Human Genome Editing
The use of human genome editing for enhancement raises significant ethical questions and concerns. The most significant concerns related to the potential for misuse and the creation of a new class of “genetically superior” individuals. This could lead to significant social inequality and discrimination against those who cannot afford genetic enhancements. Additionally, the potential for unequal distribution of cognitive and physical enhancements could exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.
Another concern related to human genome editing for enhancement is the potential for unintended consequences. Genome editing is not yet fully understood, and the effects of modifying specific genes are not yet known. This raises concerns about the potential for unintended side effects and the impact of these modifications on future generations.
There are also concerns about the consent and autonomy of individuals undergoing genetic enhancements. The decision to undergo genetic enhancements is a personal one and should be made with informed consent. However, the potential for coercion and pressure to undergo enhancements could threaten the autonomy of individuals and their right to make informed decisions.
In conclusion, while there may be some benefits to using human genome editing for enhancement, the potential for misuse and unintended consequences, as well as the significant ethical concerns surrounding social inequality, discrimination, and individual autonomy, suggest that we must proceed with caution. Careful consideration and ethical guidance are necessary to ensure that the use of genome editing for human enhancement is safe, and equitable, and respects individual autonomy. Ultimately, we must weigh the potential benefits of these enhancements against the risks and ethical concerns to determine what, if any, modifications should be permissible.