On the surface, news that scientists are learning how to tweak the genetic code of organism cells – potentially “editing out” deadly illnesses and diseases – seems positive. Indeed, there is a lot of potential good that can be derived from technologies like these, which is why Focus on the Family supports its use in basic research as well as in treatment of diseases in adults and children.
But, as with most things, there are also potential dangers we have to be aware of. In this case, pro-lifers are concerned that the emerging technology has the potential for grave misuse when it comes to gene editing technologies on human embryos and germline cells (that is, eggs and sperm).
That’s why today I want to outline three main threats Focus’ Physicians Resource Council – the team of medical professionals who advise our ministry from a Christian ethics perspective – has identified when it comes to editing human genes.
1. There’s a danger to the well-being of human embryos.
Simply put, a human embryo is a person at its earliest stages. As pro-life Christians, we believe each embryo has inestimable value.
It’s ethically unacceptable to sacrifice human life to test this technology.
2. There’s a danger people will use this technology to create “designer babies.”
Humans are created in the image of God, and it’s wrong to treat them as commodities.
That’s why we’re concerned that this technology might be used to create “designer babies” – children whose genes were edited or enhanced at the start of their lives for non-disease traits such as eye and hair color, athletic ability, or intelligence. Manipulation of traits such as these denigrates the value of humanity as it appears in its many diverse forms.
It’s important to remember that we’re already starting down this tempting slippery slope. Take as an example the story I shared last week from Iceland, where prenatal testing is being used to abort nearly every preborn child diagnosed with Down syndrome. Do we think the life of a child with Down syndrome isn’t worth as much as a typically abled child?
Where does our quest for “perfection” end?
3. There’s a danger that human gene editing could introduce genetic errors into the embryos.
This is problematic because it produces a burden should that individual survive. But it also goes beyond the specific person – the error could remain in that person’s lineage for generations and perhaps persist in the human gene pool forever.
Because of these three reasons our Physicians Resource Council has laid out, Focus on the Family opposes the use of gene editing technologies on human embryos and germline cells. I’d like to hear from you: Are you concerned about gene editing? If so, why? Share your thoughts in the comments section.