“HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING IS A STEP TOO FAR.” ✂️


Every week I will be sharing a statement which I have argued either for or against in my college debating society. I find all these topics incredibly interesting, so I will be sharing point for both sides of the argument so I can reflect on my points as well as everybody else’s opinions. I may also be writing about my own personal conclusion on some of these debates, particularly ones that I have a strong opinion on. At the end of the arguments I will be providing a 3-sentence summary which I think will be a useful exercise for me to practice.  

I think the ethics and morals of genetic engineering are very complicated. It intrigues me.”

– Roger Spottiswoode 


FOR:

  • If the process is not done carefully, the embryo could be accidentally terminated resulting in the waste of potential human life.
  • This technology is not 100% safe yet. It is only in the experimental stages at this point, so is it really right to experiment on humans?
  • Some parents may use this technology for superficial purposes; such as purposely seeking out a blonde haired, blue eyed baby for appearance concerns only. This could link Hitler’s vision of certain ‘desired’ characteristics and potentially cause children who aren’t potentially engineered with these characteristics to be discriminated against. 
  • Babies who are genetically engineered would most likely be better looking, smarter, etc. This could create a division between genetically engineered and non genetically engineered babies.
  • This technology could potentially reduce the gene pool and prove to be detrimental to the baby’s future family tree, or if used on a large scale, the existence of humanity as a whole.
  • Altering a person’s genes is a very personal decision and babies do not have the capability to make this decision. It can be argued that parents should not have this right of decision as they do not ‘own’ their children.
  • Genes often have more than one use. For example, a gene that controls intelligence could also control anger management. You could end up with a genius, but very angry, child. These consequences cannot be predicted and could cause more harm than benefit.
  • Individuality will be less valued as most people could result in being very similar.
  • The procedure is expensive, and not everyone would be able to afford it and therefore does not fulfill the principle of justice in medical ethics.
  • It could create prejudice between genetically engineered and non- genetically engineered children. Could cause the non-genetically engineered children to miss opportunities because jobs among other things are more likely to be selective of the most ‘optimum’ conditions.
  • Genetically engineering embryos for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome and Dyslexia would make them less common and therefore reduce awareness for them and cause more discrimination towards these children.
  • The effect of this technology is unpredictable, just like the discovery of radiation was which killed many people due to not being used correctly.
  • After 227 Dolly the sheep was finally born using genetic engineering. As well wasting such a vast number of embryos it is a known fact that Dolly died much younger and had several health complications throughout her life.
  • Is this the right way to spending an awful lot of money when there are more pressing problems to deal with such as child poverty?

AGAINST:

  • Investigating with this new technology will install a better understanding of genetics for genealogists and biologists and could lead to even more advanced and beneficial discoveries.
  • It has the potential to increm human life for up to 30 years.
  • Genetic engineering will prevent genetic diseases such as down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and many others. We should grasp the chance to improve the quality of a person’s life with any opportunity possible. 
  • Genetic engineering will reduce the risk of inherited medical conditions such as obesity, anemia, diabetes, cancer, and many more.
  • Parents who are carriers of conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis will be able to have children without fear of condemning their children to difficult lives in which they will suffer.
  • Every parent wants the best for their child and genetic engineering allows parents to give their child a healthy life.
  • Genetically engineering babies is an option, not a requirement for all parents. For those that disagree with it, they don’t have to engineer their child.
  • Children are already engineered by parents in many ways. Prenatal supplements, education, religion, and morals are all ways parents control their child. A direct example of this is the taking of the drug folate during pregnancy as it reduces the risk of a child developing autism. This is an example of medically altering a child and it is considered ethically acceptable.
  • Genetic engineering can eliminate mitochondrial disorders without the need to involve a third parent with healthy mitochondria.
  • If genetic engineering is completely banned it will force potential users to travel overseas to receive the same treatment that the UK is capable of.
  • The government does not have the right to control means of reproduction.
  • It’ll provide the future generations with the best possible mix of characteristics and therefore the best possible chance to sustain life on Earth.
  • With all scientific and technological advancements there is ethical disparagement, the ethical view points should not cease the advancement of technology.
  • This technology may not be perfect, but it has the potential to be very promising if it’s given the chance. Embryos from IVF clinics that would have been discarded otherwise could be practised on before offering it to the general public.
  • The example of Dolly the sheep is not relevant as she was a clone and was made from the body cell of an older sheep which resulted in her young death. Genetic engineering would be done with normal embryos and this is not a suggestion to ‘clone’ humans.
  • Genetically engineered children could potentially have the intelligence and ability required in order to solve the problems of today, such as global warming and cancer.
  • This technology will allow us to progress as a race as the genes which make us better adapted to our environment will be distributed amongst more people and therefore overall human reduce suffering. 
  • The statement asks whether genetic engineering is a ‘step too far’ and everything seems to be a step too far when it is first proposed. For example, when the suffragettes were fighting for women’s right to vote in the 1900s, it was considered as a step too far, but today it is perfectly acceptable. If we stop everything at the first stage we will never progress as a society.

Summary

In conclusion, human genetic engineering has the potential to revolutionise human life and that of future generations; but the controversy emerges due to the fact that this new, under experimented technology could actually cause more harm than benefit. It could potentially lead to the extinction of the human species by reducing the gene pool and result in more prejudice and discrimination. However, there is still a question mark over its use due to the huge potential benefits and the idea that human beings are all engineered in some way every since we are born anyway.

My Opinion

I understand the concerns of genetic engineering and the ethical implications which a huge step in Science like this would cause to arise. However, I do not believe that it is a step too far. In fact, I think genetic engineering has the potential to revolutionise the world and allow us to progress as humans. There is such a vast number of people suffering on a day to day basis from genetic illnesses which could be prevented with this fascinating technology. Science has managed to accomplish ideas which it has previously put forward, so I believe that with time, genetic engineering will also become a field which people are more educated in and it will be performed with a high success rate. 

One of the greatest worries which are voiced about genetic engineering is the fact that without doubt by accepting this practice, we are stepping into a world of the unknown and the consequences are completely unpredictable. However, I strongly believe that this should not hinder us. No advancement is ever made without stepping out and taking a risk. One of the most miraculous experiences which I have ever heard of has to be the story of the first ever heart transplant which was performed in South Africa in 1967. I learnt about this whilst completing the ‘Medicine and The Arts’ course by the University of Cape Town. There always is a first time for everything and if nobody took the courage to attempt heart surgery that day in 1967, we would not we where we are today. There definitely would not be around 3,500 heart transplants being performed worldwide every year now! 

Despite genetic engineering holding a promise and vision of a painless, disease free future, I think this is very idealistic and if it’s not very tightly controlled it could result in dangerous consequences and societal problems such as increased racism and discrimination. This is the main reason why I believe in the significance of genetic engineering only being offered for genetic illnesses. In my opinion, it should not be used for cosmetic purposes in any way as this could result in a ‘superior genetically engineered’ race of humans evolving. I also think that is also of very high importance that a procedure like this complies with all aspects of medical ethics: autonomy – genetic engineering should be a free choice, no parents should be made to feel compelled to genetically engineer their child, even if he/she is shown to possess a gene for a very unpleasant condition; justice – engineering for genetically inherited illnesses should not be a procedure which patients have to pay for as this defeats the principle of distributing resources fairly by disregarding people who are from a less wealthy family background. 

I think engineering could work and become successful in the future, especially considering advancements in the CRISPER technology. However, there would have to be strict ethical guidelines controlling its usage and distribution if it ever is to go mainstream. 

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