Germ-line Gene therapy and the clinical ethos of medical Genetics

Abstract
Although the ability to perform gene therapy in human germ-line cells is still hypothetical, the rate of progress in molecular and cell biology suggests that it will only be a matter of time before reliable clinical techniques will be within reach. Three sets of arguments are commonly advanced against developing those techniques, respectively pointing to the clinical risks, social dangers and better alternatives. In this paper we analyze those arguments from the perspective of the client-centered ethos that traditionally governs practice in medical genetics. This perspective clarifies the merits of these arguments for geneticists, and suggests useful new directions for the professional discussion of germ-line gene therapy. It suggests, for example, that the much discussed prospect of germ-line therapy in human pre-embryos may always be more problematic for medical genetics than adult germ-line interventions, even though the latter faces greater technical difficulties.
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