Creating 'designer babies' to enhance looks or intelligence could be 'morally permissible'

Leslie Hanson
July 18, 2018

"We recommend that before any move is made to amend United Kingdom legislation to permit heritable genome editing interventions, there should be sufficient opportunity for broad and inclusive societal debate", the report said.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has decided that it could be "morally permissible" to edit embryo DNA in some cases.

The altering of targeted DNA in embryos before being transferred to the womb could become an option for parents who wish to influence the genetic characteristics of their future child, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics wrote in a press release Tuesday. The development of advanced genome technology has given scientists the ability to rewrite the DNA code in eggs, sperm, and embryos.

Genetic editing technologies could introduce a "radical new approach to reproductive choices", said the council in its report, which could then have significant impacts on society.


Experts from the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics said that while the law should not now be changed to allow human genome editing to correct genetic faults in offspring, future legislation permitting it should not be ruled out. "There is no reason to rule it out in principle".

It recommends that two overarching principles should be adhered to when considering use of heritable genome editing interventions in order for them be ethically acceptable: they must be meant to secure the welfare of the future person; and they should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society. It's possible that editing faulty genes could disrupt healthy ones, according to The Guardian. Currently, the report is not asking for the law to be changed.

Critics of genome editing also have said that the ethics body's report opens the door for "designer babies", where parents alter the embryos DNA simply to create children with traits they deem desirable. Research published this week in Nature Biotechnology showed how one of these techniques known as CRISPR can damage DNA unrelated to the gene editing.

"It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself", said Karen Yeung, who headed the inquiry committee. This means it shouldn't in any way increase disadvantage, discrimination, and division in society.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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