[February 28, 2014] Ongoing right now in America (and a number of European countries), is a debate about whether we should be making modifications to the DNA of embryos. This is clearly an ethical debate versus the scientific benefits – recently technologically possible. Debate is good but what is lacking is a clear position articulated by our country’s senior leadership.
Scientifically, the blending of DNA is either pre or post fertilization and involves the combining of DNA from a third person. The purpose is to ensure that the baby is born free of certain inheritable diseases or defects. This is an admirable goal. However, scientific conclusions on this are not yet fully settled and unknown risks remain.
Morally, things are even less clear. The DNA from the mother, father, and donor would remain with the child throughout a lifetime. Yes! That’s right, a third donor. Long-term effects for this generation, and potentially the next generation, are unknown. Many people are concerned that allowing this may lead to build-to-order designer babies.
Debate on this issue should continue for the time being. Informed senior leaders should weigh-in on their views soon. In the meantime, we will be subjected to an overly simplistic view by many who say this is a debate of religion versus science. Of course, this is both wrong and misleading.
New ethical questions do arise from the advances in technology. And rightly, it should be vigorously and publically debated in such a way that an educated public can make reasonable decisions.
What if people wanted and could get a baby of a certain gender? In societies where males are valued more than females (China and India), an imbalanced gender ratio may cause problems for the future of that country and others.
Until there is some level of social maturity of our citizens, we should not be making irreversible decisions based on political ideology or an absence of the facts. Hold the decisions for now.