Treating Faulty DNA
ethical issue which appears in both secular and religious discussions
is the distinction between somatic therapy and germline enhancement.
By somatic therapy we refer to the treatment of a
disease in the body cells of a living individual by trying to
repair an existing defect. Many ethical commentators agree that
somatic therapy is morally desirable, and they look forward to
the advances HGP will bring for expanding this important work.
Yet, the ethically minded stop short of endorsing genetic selection
and manipulation for the purposes of "enhancing" the
quality of biological life for otherwise normal individuals or
for the human race as a whole. We can speculate that the new knowledge
gained from HGP might locate genes that affect the brains
organization and structure so that careful engineering might lead
to enhanced ability for abstract thinking or to other forms of
physiological and mental improvement. But such speculations are
greeted with the greatest caution. Molecular hematologist W. French
cell gene therapy for the treatment of severe disease is considered
ethical because it can be supported by the fundamental moral principle
of beneficence: It would relieve human suffering. Gene therapy
would be, therefore, a moral good. Under what circumstances would
human genetic engineering not be a moral good? In the broadest
sense, when it detracts from, rather than contributes to, the
dignity of man....Somatic cell enhancement engineering would threaten
important human values in two ways: It could be medically hazardous....And
it would be morally precarious, in that it would require moral
decisions our society is not now prepared to make, and it could
lead to an increase in inequality and discriminatory practices.
short, genetic enhancement risks violating human dignity by opening
up the possibility of discrimination.
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| Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters