CRISPR technology allows the possibility of treating human disease by directly editing and correcting genetic mutations in affected cells. However, the potential for making heritable alterations to the human genome has generated widespread discussion and rekindled the ethical debate on human germline modification. To help broaden the discussion of the ethical concerns that emerge from editing the human genome, I would like to add some perspectives from Jewish bioethics.
Jewish bioethics emerges from the practical application of Jewish law to ethical questions in contemporary medicine. A central tenet of Jewish law…is that a human life has infinite value. The duty to help heal the sick and prevent disease is so overriding that the Mishnah, the oral law, says: ‘He who saves one life, it is as if he saved the whole world.’
It is very important to place new technologies in the context of existing technology and legal frameworks…Humans have eradicated diseases, used technologies like pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to screen for and avoid genetic disease, and have recently successfully created ‘three-parent babies’ using mitochondrial transfer. All those technologies carried risks along with benefits. In this context, it is difficult to argue that genome editing is so different, that it crosses an ethical red line or radically changes the course of human evolution in a way that no other medical advancement has.
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