Gene editing is inexpensive, simple, and becoming more widely used in clinical applications, while “gene hacking” can be done by anyone who can buy equipment and chemicals. Two gene-edited babies are already over one year old, and gene editing is not just for treating somatic illness. Germline editing promises efficiency in eradicating many diseases, but ethical and legal questions persist about unknown, perhaps unknowable, transgenerational and global consequences. This issue interrogates roles of the public in considering what count as treatments or enhancements for individuals and entire species and explores what constitutes adequate oversight and governance, sustained safety and efficacy monitoring, and equity.
Although advisory groups like the World Health Organization question whether certain forms of gene editing should be permitted, the US Patent Office routinely issues patents protecting this technology.
AMA J Ethics. 2019;21(12):E1049-1055. doi: