LONDON – On July 17, the United Kingdom’s influential Nuffield Council on Bioethics implicitly endorsed “heritable genome editing,” declaring the practice of altering the DNA of a human embryo “morally permissible” under certain circumstances. The council’s report was the product of 20 months of consultation with many experts in the UK and beyond, and also built on a prior report to which I contributed testimony.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ recent endorsement of human genome editing has drawn fire from experts – including at least one who consulted on the council's previous report. While Britain may be seeking to set a new course for gene therapy, at the moment, it’s not clear that the benefits outweigh the risks.
But I have serious concerns about the new report’s conclusions. Simply put, I don’t believe the recommendations adequately consider all the ethical or medical risks of manipulating heritable genes. Nor do I think the report gives sufficient weight to the question of whether sufficiently strong safeguards ever could be put in place to prevent the technology’s misuse.
The Nuffield report...