Academic journal article Ethics & Medicine

Sound and Fury

Academic journal article Ethics & Medicine

Sound and Fury

Article excerpt

As I write this editorial, there is a great deal of sound and fury over the alleged birth of geneedited twins through the research of scientist He Jiankui in China. Using CRISPR-Cas9, He edited the genes of multiple embryos. More than a few died in the process, but two were finally brought to term late 2018. He's announcement brought almost universal approbation, including from the National Institutes of Health in the United States to his own China Association for Science and Technology. The Chinese government has ordered a temporary halt on his research activities and is investigating He and his research. One American scientist is also under scrutiny for his collaboration with He.

Although this is not the place to list them, here are very good reasons to be concerned, not least that He's research protocol apparently was not evaluated and approved by any IRB or other body of ethical oversight. Instead of being lauded as a pioneer, He is likely to go down in science history as a rogue. Worse, he clearly caused harm to the unborn embryos and may have harmed the twins and their future offspring. If the allegations prove to be true, this is a serious violation of accepted conventions of human subjects research. …

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