sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2015

BioEdge: Somerville vs Savulescu on gene editing

BioEdge: Somerville vs Savulescu on gene editing

Somerville vs Savulescu on gene editing

The debate over editing the human genome is bound to continue for a long time, now that the new CRISPR technology promises to make it quick and easy.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation brought together bioethicists Margaret Somerville, of McGill University in Montréal, and Julian Savulescu, of Oxford University, to debate the topic, which touches upon profound issues of human identity.

Somerville opposes altering the human genome and Savulescu supports it, provided it can be made safe. Their exchange of views is extremely interesting (read the transcript in full here). Below are their summing-up statements:

Margaret Somerville:  The analogy I’d make is to our physical environment. We have new technologies that we’ve used in our physical environment, and very recently, we’ve come to the awareness that it’s not indestructible and that we can do damage that is irreversible. And we’ve now recognized, as the conference in Paris this week is talking about, that we have to hold our physical ecosystem on trust for future generations, not to lay it waste, not to leave future generations worse off than we are – and hopefully better off.

And I think we can say the same about what I call our metaphysical ecosystem, the values, beliefs, attitudes, principles, stories that we tell each other and buy into to form a society, that we also have to hold on trust. I believe this idea, this area of actually designing future humans, and that’s what this about, contradicts what we need to maintain as the base of our metaphysical ecosystem – that is, respect for human life, in general, and respect for every individual human, and that includes human embryos.

Julian Savulescu: Nature does not deliver human beings who are necessarily healthy, does not deliver human beings who are necessarily social, does not deliver human beings who are necessarily happy. There is vast natural inequality. The most extreme examples are genetic diseases. Science now is beginning to allow us to understand why that occurs and how we can intervene. We ought to use that knowledge ethically and we ought to draw important distinctions. It’s not a question of gene editing, yes or no, it’s a question of what kinds, in what circumstances, and with what limits.

The important distinctions are between therapeutic and reproductive gene editing, between gene editing for treatment and for enhancement, and for gene editing to correct inequality versus to increase inequality. In my view, we need a mature ethics that enables us to use powerful science such as gene editing, but also artificial intelligence, the internet, nanotechnology. All powerful science has profound risks of abuse, and historically we have abused science. Today we need to develop an ethics that enables us to harvest the fruits of science while also preventing abuse.
- See more at: http://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/somerville-vs-savulescu-on-gene-editing/11692#sthash.VTwlkb3z.dpuf


Now that Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke has burned his medical registration rather than give up promoting the right to die, he is tackling his Big Idea: rational suicide.
He is planning to hold a seminar in Melbourne next September to show that people do not have to be depressed or terminally ill to want to die. “The reality is, a portion of our population will suicide and I don’t think we should make it so hard,” Nitschke told The Guardian. He believes that bereaved spouses, long-term prisoners, and all old people should have access to lethal medications so that they can kill themselves.
Australia’s National Mental Health Commissioner, Professor Ian Hickie was appalled by Nitschke’s remarks and spoke out with unusual frankness:
“Nitschke has no understanding of mental health and related issues, and absolutely no empathy. He has demonstrated a lack of humanity and a lack of concern for those who find themselves in these situations and their families, and a complete lack of compassion for those who are socially isolated and trying to connect with their world. I find it a totally unacceptable and appalling idea that age is a proxy for the end of your useful life. To reinforce that is an abhorrent idea.”
However, Nitschke has raised – or rather revived, for the Greeks and Romans discussed the same topic – a good question. If life is really a good, can it ever be rational to take it? If it is not unconditionally good, why can’t we take it? What gives life any value? I can’t say that I have ever admired Nitschke’s ideas or his work, but without people like him, would we be asking these big questions? 

Michael Cook



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