Bioethicist Matthew Liao is open to genetic engineering in theory, but he says he was rather horrified to learn that twin girls had been born in China after a researcher genetically modified their embryos to resist HIV infection.
“My first reaction was, ‘This is really bad,’” recalls Liao.
Still, under the right circumstances, Liao, who served for two years on the Hinxton Group, which facilitates collaboration on stem cell research, believes genetic engineering can be used in an ethical way. And, in a paper in Bioethics, he puts forth a human rights-based approach to assessing which circumstances are right.
Liao introduces those principles with four “claims” on the ethics of genetic engineering:
Claim 1: it is not permissible to deliberately create an offspring that will not have all the fundamental capacities;
Claim 2: if such an offspring has already been created, it is permissible to bring that offspring to term;
Claim 3: it is not permissible to eliminate some fundamental capacity from an existing offspring; and
Claim 4: if it is possible to correct some lack of fundamental capacity—without undue burdens on parents or society—it may be impermissible not to do so.
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