Is human gene editing ethical?

Background

Recent scientific breakthroughs could soon allow parents to modify their child’s eye color, hair color, height, intelligence and athleticism. It might sound like a dystopian sci-fi story, but the possibility of “designer babies” is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Parents can already select the sex of their child in certain areas of the world and, while the genetics of intelligence have not yet been determined, they have long been a topic of interest in the scientific community.

Gene editing has the potential to eliminate diseases and enhance all kinds of human potential. It may be the path to greatness for humanity! However, beyond the safety concerns of unwanted genetic mutations, gene editing could also worsen social inequalities and lead to discrimination.

Solve the puzzles linked above to see the top arguments on both sides!

Discussion Questions

1. What if people could make their children smarter, faster, and more beautiful? (AKA “designer babies”) Would that be good for the world? Why or why not?

2. Is it possible to draw a clear distinction between medical interventions to prevent diseases, and enhancements which are not medically necessary? If so, where do you draw the line exactly? (For example, what if we had a genetic intervention that would increase a person’s lifespan by 10 years – would we be morally obligated to provide that to everyone? What if we could eliminate Down’s syndrome?)

3. The PRO side argues that gene editing is going to happen inevitably, so it is better to do it safely. Do you agree? Why or why not?

4. Do you agree with the CON side that gene editing could lead down a slippery slope of racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination? Why or why not?

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