“Editing” the human germline – the genes passed on from generation to generation that have evolved naturally over millions of years to create each unique one of us – has gone from science fiction to science fact. We can now design our descendants.
Most bioethicists and many major institutions had agreed that would be wrong. Now, some are arguing that it should be allowed because of its potential to do “good.” How should we decide? We can look to the history of assisted human reproduction technologies for some lessons.
In 1978, the world was shocked by the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby conceived outside a woman’s body through in-vitro fertilization. But IVF quickly became a routine procedure.
Then ethical questions arose about the freezing of human embryos “left over” from IVF. Could they be donated to an infertile couple, a single woman, a same-sex couple, used for research, or as a source of stem cells to manufacture therapeutic products to benefit others? If the parents die, do the embryos deserve a chance at life? If the...