I recently attended the DIA 2019 in San Diego. It was fascinating listening to all the different talks and realising the advances in science that will undoubtedly help with clinical trials and healthcare. But then I attended a soapbox called Designing Babies – Medical, Ethical and Social Questions.

Robert Klitzman, MD Professor of Clinical Psychiatry; Director, Masters of Bioethics Program from Columbia University in the United States explained the new gene editing technology known as “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” or CRISPR can alter the genes of cells, including embryos, changing the organism and its descendants, and raising critical ethical, legal and social concerns.

 

 

Sitting listening in shock I learnt that the gene editing technology can create genes. For example, you can create a boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, no matter your ethnic background. If you are deaf or a dwarf you can legally buy the gene to have a deaf or dwarf child and you can now even remove the gene that causes autism. It is perfectly legal in the US to pay $50000 and buy human eggs. There are however, ethical principles of autonomy being debated between the patients and doctors. What are the ramifications? CRISPR can also alter genes in microorganisms to create superbugs, and in 2016 the Pentagon listed it as a weapon of mass destruction. The outcome for Jude Law in the sci-fi movie Gattaca (1997) when he assumes the identity of the perfect genetic specimen perhaps should remind us that the outcome is not always as we expect. The result of the discussion was still questionable and I was left wondering, are we just playing GOD?

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