Global Gene-Edited Baby Ban Urged

TimeTestTubeBaby1978TimeThe American Medical Association called for a moratorium on experiments that would seek to implant a “test tube baby” into a woman in an editorial in the May 1, 1972, issue of its journal. The association asserted that the ethical implications of this and other experiments in “genetic engineering” should be thoroughly explored before the work is applied to human beings. Ethically speaking, a Harris poll just two years earlier reported that a majority of Americans believed that producing test-tube babies was “against God’s will.”

Subsequent to the AMA’s statement, research on in vitro fertilization (IVF) essentially halted in the United States until British researchers announced the imminent birth of just such a test tube baby—Louise Joy Brown—in July, 1978. The consensus about the morality of IVF then flipped and the Gallup poll a month later reported that 60 percent of Americans approved of IVF and more than half would consider using it if they were infertile.

The first IVF baby born in the United States was Elizabeth Carr in 1981. Since then, more than 8 million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other advanced fertility treatments.

In Nature, a group of eminent researchers are now advocating a moratorium on heritable human genome editing. “We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing—that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children,” they write. “By ‘global moratorium,'” they hasten to add, “we do not mean a permanent ban.”

The proposed moratorium is in response to the widely condemned announcement in November by Chinese biophysicist Jiankui He of the birth of two baby girls upon whom he had applied CRISPR gene-editing when they were embryos to silence a specific gene related to HIV-infection resistance. Interestingly, other research suggests that silencing that gene would likely enhance the girls’ intelligence. While the Chinese government hurried to condemn He’s gene-editing, more recent reporting

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