Using the therapy and enhancement distinction in law and policy

Bioethics 34 (1):70-80 (2019)
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Abstract

In a first major study, the UK’s Royal Society found that 76% of people in the UK are in favour of therapeutic germline genomic editing to correct genetic diseases in human embryos, but found there was little appetite for germline genomic editing for non‐therapeutic purposes. Assuming the UK and other governments acted on these findings, can lawmakers and policymakers coherently regulate the use of biomedical innovations by permitting their use for therapeutic purposes but prohibiting their use for enhancement purposes? This paper examines the very common claim in the enhancement literature that the therapy v enhancement distinction does little meaningful work in helping us think through the ethical issues, a claim that has significant implications for these lawmakers and policymakers who may wish to regulate genomic editing techniques to reflect the findings of this important study. The focus of this paper is on germline genomic editing as one of the main themes in this special issue.

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