Rewriting the human genome, rewriting human rights law? Human rights, human dignity, and human germline modification in the CRISPR era

Britta C van Beers
2020 Journal of Law and the Biosciences  
In most legal orders, human germline modification is either prohibited or severely restricted. A recurring thought in these legal frameworks is that heritable genome editing would result in practices that are at odds with principles of human rights, such as dignity, justice, and equality. However, now that CRISPR is bringing heritable genome editing within human reach, the question has risen as to whether these human rights bans still make sense. The call is growing louder to lift the ban on
more » ... itable genome editing for therapeutic purposes as soon as the technology is safe for introduction in the clinic. This article critically examines these recent proposals from a human rights perspective. First, it examines the question as to how realistic the proposed distinction between the therapeutic and the nontherapeutic uses of human germline modification is in the CRISPR era. Second, it argues that these proposals rely on a one-dimensional understanding of the meaning of human rights for this issue. Finally, it suggests that this one-dimensional understanding paves the way for a regime of self-regulation by the scientific community that leaves little room for public debate on the question as to whether or how human germline modification fits in the long-term aspirations of society.
doi:10.1093/jlb/lsaa006 fatcat:g3wpf3etvbblxfzymp6rjud5oi