Good Eugenics?

Scientists call it germline modification. We call it designer babies. Either way it entered a new stage recently when Chinese scientists were able to alter a human embryo by removing a potentially fatal blood disorder. What’s to be underlined is that the technique does not only alter the fact for that embryo but for all the human lives that would derive from it. So it is more than just an individual alteration, it tinkers with the process of evolution and alters the species. Some scientists are now asking, is this a technique we want to use?  They make a distinction between gene editing to remove diseases and what they call editing for enhancement, that is to make an embryo superior in some manner. They have no problems with gene editing to remove disease, but they ask the scientific community as well as the public to think deeply about editing for enhancement and even suggest we should not proceed with it at this time. Their caution raises an important question:  How do we ensure that embryo editing and the genetic modifications it will lead to in the future will heal and not harm? We can be sure that should this technique be readily available there will be some who will definitely want to use it to have a  custom made child , or one they believe will make he or she better than average. Given the implications to the society as well as to humanity as a whole, it is an issue that requires addressing way beyond scientists’ recommendations. Short of enacting laws, it may be useful to bring the issue to the fore, to openly, publicly discuss it in an attempt to make the idea undesirable and objectionable. In the past, even before Hitler used it, eugenics has been used wrongly in the US to stop mentally ill people from having children and to stop the blind as well as the deaf from reproducing. We are now in the position as the author of a recent article reminds us, to make eugenics a force for good. To do that the public discussions ought not only to happen they must include social responsibility, how the act of one person can affect us all, however obliquely or abstractly. Our discussions must also include our responsibility to those who may not be as affluent in affording gene editing, or whose  health insurance will not cover it. We must make sure that not only the rich can afford to get rid of certain diseases. Much needs to be done if the dangers of the technique are to be avoided, and that much ought to begin now.