Discussion regarding Genetic Engineering in Humans
Academia tends to be left-leaning on social issues. I can say the same for myself. So this thought is for those who identify as pro-choice regarding a woman's right to abortion (See Roe v Wade if unfamiliar with this very niche topic), however are a little hesitant regarding the topic of genetic engineering in humans. First, to the point of using a technology like Cas9 for manipulation of fertilized embryos with severe quality of life diminishing diseases, we may all agree that it is morally justifiable to make these changes. Cystic fibrosis, for example, is a single gene mutation causing a distinct decrease in quality of life and life expectancy. From a technological standpoint, altering this gene to a non-disease allele form in a human embryo is already possible. From a cost standpoint, I can't see how this type of procedure would cost more than current rates for IVF.
So that's the starting point. Now where do we draw the line regarding what types of changes are morally justifiable or not? At this stage, multi-gene phenotypes are not under consideration. Single gene traits are much closer to the horizon. Should we only make genetic changes if there are health implications, or should parents be allowed to choose non-disease related traits as well. For example, the MC1R gene and its functional alleles (and how they are regulated) are highly correlated with an individual's number of freckles, darkness of skin tone, and hair color (NIH, Wikipedia). Should a parent be able to choose which copy of this allele they want for their children? What if they are choosing from a pool of alleles that all already exist in nature and have shown no negative health effects? Is there anything unnatural about this? If one parent had chosen a different mate, their offspring perhaps could have inherited the particular allele of interest anyways, right?
So, I summarize these questions in the following way:
If parents possess the choice
that children they wish to bear,
should they also possess the choice
regarding the color of their hair?