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Both the 19th and 20th centuries saw eugenics movements aimed at eliminating disease and disability by preventing disordered individuals from reproducing, thus changing the gene pool, at least, theoretically. Hitler widely used sterilization and even extermination of groups of individuals to “cleanse” society and for at least awhile his techniques were highly praised in the US by those in the Eugenics Movement. In the 1980’s, after successfully mapping the human genome, James Watson of Watson and Crick speculated on the growing potential for genetic choice and genetic enhancement such as parents having the right to abort a fetus that does not pass genetic muster or by manipulating genes to enhance athletic or intellectual ability. In the futuristic film Gattaca, parents select the traits they desire in their children thus creating “super societies.”
Recently, 2017, a researcher at MIT claimed to successfully genetically modify the first human embryo and with the development of CRISP-R technology, enhancing and modifying genes is now possible. Further, a scientist in China, Dr. He, announced the genetic modification of twin girl embryos to enhance HIV immunity. We have moved over the decades from focusing on genetics to eliminate the undesirable to now using genetic technology to enhance for desired traits. For this discussion please respond to the following three questions.
- Take a position on pre-birth, “genetic enhancement.” Should parents be able to choose from a menu of preferred traits for their children?
- Do an Internet search to determine if there are any companies, health care organizations, or bio techs offering genetic enhancement and related technologies? Describe at least 2 such organizations and include their URL in the posting.
- Interpret and critique the following statement. ”It is sometimes thought that genetic enhancement erodes professional responsibility by overriding effort and striving.” (Sandel MJ. The Case against Perfection. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. P. 87)