CRISPR and the era of Designer babies

by Large Even-Paced Creature on February 10, 2017 - 1:28pm

 

A relatively recent discovery of an intracellular complex abbreviated as CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) has given scientists potential control over any living organism’s genes – including humans’. With this technology, genes can be triggered to either express or repress themselves. New sequences can even be spliced in, and undesired ones can be excised. The result of this is that organisms – humans in particular – can be completely customized after conception but before birth to exhibit traits and characteristics desired by the parents, as well as to remove traits deemed undesirable. If this technology develops to the point of being available, these modifications can range from selecting a specific eye color all the way to curing a malady the unborn child is predisposed to. Assuming that the power of this technology can be harnessed and used without risk (a separate, much more complicated issue that will conveniently be glossed over for this essay), the question practically asks itself: Should this technology be used? For reasons that will be discussed further on, I firmly believe that this technology should be used on the condition that the parents who authorize the procedures (or don’t) assume full responsibility for their choices.

First, it is important to acknowledge the arguments that would be against the use of such a technology. While it may be tempting to think that curing a child’s illness through CRISPR technology would be a good idea, a deontological perspective would see would label this notion as immoral. Whether the parents are religious or not, the universal maxim of “do not play God” would provide a moral barrier that would prevent them from tampering with a matter that would otherwise be out of their hands. Because of this, some people, worried about the long term effects of such modifications, proposed patent restrictions that would restrict the use of this technology to “pause worrisome applications” (Guerrini, Curnutte and Scott).While the applications themselves are never specified, they concern is clear: if only certain modifications were allowed, it would be difficult if not impossible to draw the line between what should and should not be done.

However, there are also those who would be in favor of this technology and its use. The utilitarian, with his notion of “the greatest good for the greatest number”, sees the use of CRISPR technology as a net gain: after all, if there is an illness that can be cured, why not do so? An example that comes to mind would be a scenario where a scan determines that an unborn child would suffer from muscular dystrophy unless cured through a process involving CRISPR technology. If the treatment could be afforded by the parents, and would be completed without any complications (again hypothetically speaking), there should not be any reason to decline the procedure. The baby would be cured, and live a happy and healthy – albeit unnatural – life. And yet the fact that it is unnatural is of no concern to the utilitarian. According to Johnjoe McFadden, “DNA is just another bit of our body that might go wrong”, and “[if] science can be used to eliminate human suffering, then let’s get on with it” (McFadden).

My opinion on this coincides very well with Mcfadden’s point I mentioned earlier. If the parents of a child in utero find out that their baby would suffer from a disease curable with a genetic modification, then they would be morally justified in having the baby undergo the procedure. However, if the parents choose not to accept the treatment, they must be responsible for the outcomes that entails. In the earlier example, if the parents had not cured the child with muscular dystrophy, then they must support the child and care for him even with his disability. It was their choice to keep that child’s affliction, and they must deal with that just as much as the child does.

In summary, I believe that when dealing with CRISPR technology, the parents should choose whether they should modify the DNA of their child based on their own ethical frameworks, but no matter what they do they must take responsibility for their choices and accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

 

Works Cited

 

Guerrini, Christi, Margaret Curnutte and Christopher Scott. Playing God? CRISPR patents could reduce ‘designer baby’ ethical concerns. 27 Januaury 2017. Web. <https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/01/24/playing-god-crispr-pat....

McFadden, Johnjoe. Genetic editing is like playing God – and what’s wrong with that? 2 February 2016. Web. <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/02/genetic-editing-pl....

 

 

Comments

This was an extremely interesting piece. I have always been profoundly fascinated by the ethical dilemmas tied to recent developments in genetics and I found that your article encapsulated the key issues that we will soon face, considering CRISPR’s imminence; however, I think the article would benefit from analysis through a feminist lens. Specifically, I strongly believe that intersectionality, the way different systems of inequality, oppression, and discrimination overlap and reinforce one another, will have a huge role to play in the inevitable discussion about the implementation of the technology that you mentioned.

Parents will soon have the ability to modify the traits of their children. Since visible minorities lack privilege, unearned assets that allow individuals to navigate social systems, some couples will decide to preselect the sex or the race of their kids. The notion that parents would make such a decision is inherently controversial. As such, I have no doubt that legality of this kind of modification will become a major topic of debate; however, I am also sure that many will entertain the idea. Intersectionality is exponential in nature, meaning that being a minority on multiple fronts will have a compounding effect on the discrimination that you face, not an additive one. For example, a male person of colour will have much more privilege than a female person of colour. As a result of this phenomenon, I predict that some visible minorities, who have experienced intense discrimination themselves, will decide to change the gender or the sex of their children to ensure that society will fairly treat them.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether we will decide to ban or permit these kinds of alterations, but I believe that touching on this fascinating issue in your article would give it some extra substance. Since you argued that we should use CRISPR to lessen human suffering, would you agree that a parent has the right to change their child’s sex or gender to make sure that they won’t be discriminated against? I strongly recommend that you take the time to research intersectionality to further develop your stance on CRISPR and to potentially have more information to revise your article. You should start with the Wikipedia page that I linked below and branch out from there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality

This post is very well explained from a scientific and ethical aspect. The ethical and fundamental questions surrounding the control and selection of any organism's genes have always made me curious. Through the examination of a feminist lens, the CRISPR can encounter other dilemmas. The fact that individuals can select a specific gender and that the preference of males over females in multiple countries has high ratios, the presence of males can greatly increase. This can also cause many persons to adopt a patriarchal world view.

The patriarchal world view is referred to a world view where the strongest men that conform to the “man box” rule. The “man box” positions male that are supposed to consider themselves powerful, strong, macho, hard, etc. The patriarchal world view mentions that the female must accept an unequal and subordinate position. In this day, many countries such as Azerbaijan have an unwanted male-female ratio over 100.0 and the selection of a preferred male gender can increase the ratio even more in most of these countries with the help of CRISPR. By increasing the ratio, a smaller population of women will stand for their rights and a larger number of males might be occupying higher positions in different fields of society such as politics, economics, etc. The increase of individuals that can have a patriarchal world view will cause an inequality between genders.

Briefly, it remains to be seen if the use of the CRISPR will be authorized and if other issues are to be discussed. Personally, I think that you have a strong analysis based on your research, but you should consider the problems that may be created in other fields. You should also ask yourself if one’s well-being can affect the safety of others.

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/08/26/434616512/selecting-...