There is one important takeaway from the controversy [about He Jiankui’s gene-edited babies] that seems to have gone overlooked in the CRISPR ethics discussion: defining the ethics of editing human life should not be left to scientists alone.
Key decisions about when and how it will be appropriate to make inheritable changes to human beings currently lie in the hands of scientists. Although ethics are repeatedly invoked, the most prominent condemnations of He’s actions don’t actually address whether it’s ethical to tinker with human life through gene editing. A largely ignored part of the story are the five “draft ethical principles” of He’s lab at the Southern University of Science and Technology of China. If the outcry from scientists was truly about ethics, we would be seeing a discussion of the relative merits of He’s ethical principles, engagement with their content, and perhaps an exploration of how to jointly achieve a better set of operating principles. Instead, the ethics of using CRISPR for germline gene editing have apparently been determined and settled among scientists, closing down a meaningful debate about the limits and opportunities of genetic engineering.
Read full, original post: Are scientists’ reactions to ‘CRISPR babies’ about ethics or self-governance?