Gene therapy: Ethical issues

To discern the ethical issues involved incurrent gene therapy research, to explore theproblems inherent in possible future genetherapies, and to encourage debate within thescientific community about ethical questionsrelevant to both, we surveyed American Societyof Human Genetics scientists who engage inhuman genetics research. This study of theopinions of U.S. scientific experts about theethical issues discussed in the literature ongene therapy contributes systematic data on theattitudes of those working in the field as wellas elaborative comments. Our survey finds thatrespondents are highly supportive of thepotential use of somatic cell gene therapy tocure serious diseases in adults and children aswell as prospective offspring. A clearmajority, however, believe that using suchgenetic techniques for enhancement purposes isunacceptable. Delineating the line betweendisease/disorder and improvement/enhancementposes a problem not easily resolved and oneconducive to the growth of slippery-slopeapprehensions. The majority of respondents alsoadvocate germ-line therapy, in theory at least,and under similar restrictions, but theyrecognize the roadblock that the existence ofunanticipated negative consequences currentlypresents. Another complex matter involvestrying to determine appropriate reasons forchoosing target diseases for research, forwhich the dichotomy between rare single-geneand common multifactorial diseases reveals anongoing dilemma.
Keywords bioethics  biomedical ethics  disease  enhancement  gene therapy  genetic engineering  genetics  germ-line therapy  health  human genetics  opinion survey
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DOI 10.1023/A:1022967623162
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