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Catholics shouldn't totally reject human gene editing -- but it still has ethical problems


DNA. Photo credit: Liya Graphics Shutterstock CNA

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Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2017 CNA/EWTN News.- Recent American guidelines for human gene modification have raised important ethical questions, especially with regard to modifying the genes of unborn children and of reproductive cells.

The National Academy of Sciences last week released a 261-page report on guidelines for editing the human genome to treat diseases and other applications. The report covers a wide array of topics, from the editing of adult cells for therapies such as cancer treatment, to the editing of embryos and germ cells (reproductive cells, i.e. ova and sperm), to the question of human enhancement.

John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, spoke to CNA about the perils and the promises of gene editing, as well as the oversights contained in the National Academy of Sciences' report.

“Gene editing generally can be morally legitimate if it has a directly therapeutic purpose for a particular patient in question, and if we’re sure we’re going to limit whatever changes to this person,” DiCamillo explained. In this regard, the report’s guidelines for laboratory treatment of somatic  – or non-reproductive – cells and human trials of somatic cell treatments were reasonable, he noted.

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