Advances in genome editing technologies allow scientists to add, remove, or alter genetic material at particular locations in the human genome. Genome editing of somatic cells offers great promise in the prevention and treatment of various human diseases. But these technologies could also be used to modify gametes and embryos. Some commentators defend gene editing for reproductive purposes on the ground that it would allow people who are at risk of transmitting genetic diseases to their offspring to have healthy and genetically related children.
Using gene editing in this way would require further research. The technology still presents problems involving off-target effects and reliability. Researchers must improve delivery to desired tissues and control of immunogenic reactions. Yet I argue here that, if we accept certain background claims about justice, accepting the goal of helping people have healthy and genetically related children should commit one to rejecting the investment of social resources into further development of reproductive embryo editing.
Considerations of justice are relevant to questions regarding the development of reproductive embryo editing for several reasons. First, decisions about research-funding priorities involve...