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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

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Gene editing -- Moral and ethical aspects, Genetic engineering, Bioethics, CRISPR (Genetics), Gene editing -- Applications to medicine


Since the advent of recombinant DNA technology, expectations (and trepidations) about the potential for altering genes and controlling our biology at the fundamental level have been sky high. These expectations have gone largely unfulfilled. But though the dream (or nightmare) of being able to control our biology is still far off, gene editing research has made enormous strides toward potential clinical use. This paper argues that when it comes to determining permissible uses of gene editing in one important medical context—germline intervention in reproductive medicine—issues about enhancement and eugenics are, for the foreseeable future, a red herring. Current translational goals for gene editing research involve a different kind of editing than would be required to achieve manipulation of complex traits such as intelligence, and there are more pressing (and unresolved) questions that need attention if clinical use of gene editing in reproductive medicine ever becomes a possibility.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication.

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