Science and engineering ethics

Gene Editing, Enhancing and Women's Role.

PMID 28155097


A recent article on the front page of The Independent (September 18, 2015) reported that the genetic 'manipulation' of IVF embryos is to start in Britain, using a new revolutionary gene-editing technique, called Crispr/Cas9. About three weeks later (Saturday 10, October 2015), on the front page of the same newspaper, it was reported that the National Health Service (NHS) faces a one billion pound deficit only 3xa0months into the new year. The hidden connection between these reports is that gene editing could be used to solve issues related to health care allocation. Improving the health of future generations might coincide with public health goals; it might improve the health of individuals and communities, and, if successful, might be seen as a public good. However, enhancing future generations will require In Vitro Fertilisation and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis. Remarkably, the necessary involvement of women in an enhancing scenario has not been discussed by its proponents. The present discourse on moral obligations of future generations, although not referring to women, seems to imply that women might be required, morally, if not legally, to reproduce with IVF. Enhancing future generations will be gendered, unless the artificial womb is developed. These are challenging issues that require a wider perspective, of both women and men. Despite the lack of a unified feminist conclusion in the discussions about the merits and risks of human genome modification, there is an urgent need to clarify the role of women in this scenario.