April 12, 2021

Conflicting views on human heritable genome editing

 Heritable Human Genome Editing: The Public Engagement Imperative

Now limited to preclinical research by a prohibitive federal statute, the conduct of HHGE in the United States may well be at the mercy of the mutable arc of public opinion, the trajectory of which is unknowable.44 Eventual public acceptance of HHGE may well follow if it can be shown to have a unique and favorable impact on the global burden of incurable genetic disease. Such a trajectory would be further buttressed by the plight of parents and their children, which is universally resonant and hard to ignore. Medical science has, after all, been down this road before. Standing in opposition to the prospect of HHGE are deep-rooted misgivings over runaway technological progress that is liable to shatter millennia-old societal norms. Additional concerns draw on the prospect of liberal eugenics, access inequities, imponderable impairment, and progeny-related harm. Reconciling the conflicting views of the current steady state will require time, perhaps generational time, before the dust settles. In the interim, it is nothing short of imperative that HHGE be subjected to the rigors of public deliberation along the lines applied to MRT and related reproductive technologies.45 What is called for is informed public judgment that has accounted for both the relevant concerns and the potential to advance human welfare.