“O brave new world” CRISPR Mediated Gene Editing in Somatic and Germ Line Contexts for Therapeutics and Enhancement of the Human Species – an Ethical and Legal Discussion.
Gene editing has been a topic of controversy since the late 1970’s, however as of 2015 the topic of gene editing and its potential applications has shot to the forefront of biomedical, ethical and legal debate. CRISPR is a new molecular technology, which is essentially a molecular scissors capable of cutting a single gene, or multiple genes out of the genome of any species. Scientists have further manipulated CRISPR so that after it has excised a gene, or genes, it can then insert a gene of choice, into the excised area. The ramifications of CRISPR mediated gene editing technology are huge in the cellular therapeutics arena (somatic), and in the preventative medicine landscape (germ line). CRISPR mediated gene editing requires us to reflect on how as a society we view genetically driven diseases, and disabilities. Furthermore, there are calls from scientists for clarification on the legal and regulatory landscape of gene editing, in all its platforms, within their jurisdiction. In this piece, I examine the ethical and legal implications of CRISPR mediated gene editing in somatic and germ line contexts, using the British Medical Associations Eclectic Method.