Decriminalizing human germline modification?
Erika Kleiderman (Centre of Genomics and Policy)
Paper short abstract:
2017 has been a "breakthrough" year for both genome editing and the policy surrounding it. New policy statements call for more nuance in the ban on human germline modification and begin to address pre-clinical research. Considering this shift, what are the most appropriate governance approaches?
Paper long abstract:
2017 has been a "breakthrough" year not just for genome editing but for the policy that surrounds it. Several major organizations have adopted statements on human genome editing calling for more nuance in the ban on human germline modification and beginning to address pre-clinical research. The possibility of developing clinical trials using this technology for the treatment and prevention of serious diseases is also under discussion. Considering this evolution, what are the most appropriate governance approaches? We present an international analysis of past prohibitions and possible future avenues for policy and legal reform. Is decriminalization just a question of an ad hoc response to a new technology, such as CRISPR, or is it an illustration, or, perhaps even an opportunity to examine the phenomenon of policy responses to emerging technologies affecting fundamental reproductive choices and regenerative medicine generally? The last 25 years have witnessed a general prohibition of human germline modification based on references to human dignity, the rights of children, as well as promoting a static view of 'nature' and illustrating an ongoing fear of eugenics. Such categorical condemnation has pre-empted what could have been fruitful public discussion preceding the advent of CRISPR. Yet, while reassuring, simple and final as a legal tool, wholesale prohibitions may not be the appropriate mechanism for emerging scientific technologies. What proportionate policy frameworks and tools exist for regenerative medicine that can respond not only to CRISPR and to what may become "legitimate" germline modification but also to future "breakthroughs"?
Recombining life: sociotechnical intersections in the making of genome editing