Chinese scientists altered a human embryo to remove a potentially fatal blood disorder — not only from the baby, but all of its descendants.
Researchers call this process “germline modification.” The media likes the phrase “designer babies.” But we should call it what it is, “eugenics.”
A National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine joint committee endorsed embryo editing aimed at genes that cause serious diseases when there is “no reasonable alternative.” But it was more wary of editing for “enhancement,” like making already-healthy children stronger or taller. It recommended a public discussion, and said that doctors should “not proceed at this time.”
The committee had good reason to urge caution. The history of eugenics is full of oppression and misery. This time around, eugenics could be a force for good.
Rather than demonizing ‘unfit’ people and working to sterilize them, the new eugenics regards their inherited disabilities as treatable medical conditions.
Given this track record, we should certainly debate human embryo editing and all of the new human-breeding discoveries yet to come. But we should also recognize that there is a crucial difference between the old eugenics and the new.
Read the whole article in the LA Times