Genetic Engineering. Right or Wrong?
Genetic engineering has been one of the most controversial ethical issues since 1997; when Dolly the first successfully cloned sheep was announced. Dolly has redefined the meaning of identical twin; not only does she look exactly like her mother she also has the same genetic make up. This experiment was not only impossible but unthinkable. Yet, Dr. Ian Wilmut revealed Dolly on February 23, 1997, at seven months old ( Travis 1). On the surface genetic engineering may appear to be the solution to all of societys ills and the worlds problems. In all actuality it may have tremendous and unknown side effects. The issues that surround genetic engineering undoubtedly make it immoral and ethically wrong.
Genetic Engineering as defined by Susan A. Hagedorn is:
The manipulation of an organisms genetic endowment by introducing or eliminating genes through modern molecular biology techniques. A broad
definition of genetic engineering also includes selective breeding and other means
of artificial selection ( Genetic Engineering 1).
After hearing of the creation of Dolly Americans soon learned the harsh fact surrounding her creation. Dr. Wilmuts success was accompanied by 276 failures. This success rate is no where near clinically acceptable. To start the developing of the eggs they were shocked with electric pulses; twenty nine of the 277 of these eggs began to divide. The eggs, at that point were implanted into adult female sheep; thirteen of which became pregnant, and only the one of 277 eggs were born – Dolly ( Wilmut 1).
Long term prospects of mammal cloning remain in question. this is no where near clinically acceptable for experimentation on humans.
In the months following the news of Dolly, President Clinton requested, a through review of the legal and ethical issues associated with the use of this technology… with recommendations on possible federal actions to prevent its abuse (Shermer 1). The answer is clear– there is no safe place to draw the line on when genetic engineering is acceptable and is not. Governments can not say that the uses are strictly limited to curing disease because then there becomes a question of what is a genetic disease. For example, we may feel comfortable defining a mutation in the cystic fibrosis gene as causing disease if it leads to chronic respiratory infections from birth to death at the age of twenty five. However a different mutations in the same gene might caused little or no problem is this also cystic fibrosis? Other unknown aspects of an individuals genetic make-up and environmental factors also influence the outcome. Soon to be parents were advised that their child had an extra chromosome that would not cause Down syndrome, but this mutation was possibly linked to other undesirable traits such as severe acne and aggressive behavior. Given those circumstances the parents of a would be infant, may selfishly chose to abort the child(Shenk 6). To many Americans today the abortion of that child was wrong yet, in a genetically altered society the egg would be thrown away, implying that it was not normal or was not what the parents wanted.
To simply remove the gene that causes increased aggression and reprogram it to be very passive and optimistic, is a possibility for parents. But why stop there? The parents agree that their child will be tall, peaking somewhere between five feet eight and five feet eleven female and near six feet three inches because dad wants a NFL quarterback and mom want a super model. Both mom and dad have decided that the child should be smart, to take out the obesity gene, the gene that controls the risk of alcoholism, also the one that runs the risk of the child getting lung cancer, and lastly the gene that is prone to hereditary heart failure. It is at this point where you find the parents searching for their children in a catalogs, altering the child so much they now have a child who looks nothing like either of them. The issue of sex selection with in the United States would not have immediate effects, but in the long run we could become like China and India are now, aborting one sex in order to control the population of male/female ratios within the society (Hughes 11).
By condoning genetic manipulation or cloning the world see one the most important values disappear. Genetic engineering will destroy individualism and become more of a fashion, much like we see New York fashion shows go through. From one summer to the next the fashions change as will the use of genetic engineering. Blonde hair and green eyes will only last as a trend for so long thus, creating a child on what the current trend is. Individualism would be destroyed.
A bigger cultural concern about genetic technology is that people will begin to see genetics as more central and influential in life than they should. Eugenics and genetic determinism are being fueled by contemporary genetic technology and research, at the expense of attempts to ameliorate social ills. (Hughes 9).
Many opponents of genetic engineering and the investigation that has gone into it are concerned that the growing knowledge of genetics will lead to discrimination and the problem that may be raised with confidentiality. Its a well known fact that employers are already attempting to discover the genetic risk of their employees and deny or limit employment or health care on the basis of that risk profile. Keeping genetic information confidential from insurers and other non-medical personnel in the health care system is trickier, since the records will show any special screening or treatment that genetic risks called for. This could strengthen the powers of insurers in enabling them to exclude any person from obtaining coverage based on their genetic make up (Hughes 10).
Currently there are medical procedures within this country that most insurance companies will not cover but wealthy people who fall stricken with these diseases are able to pay for treatment. Does genetic manipulation hold the same fate? The answer to this is yes, the people would find themselves broadening the economic gap between the rich and the poor. Not only that, but we would find ourselves a genetically divided society. The rich being genetically altered and the middle and lower classes genetically inferior(Hughes 11-12)
Privacy and confidentiality may also be threatened if a family member gets a genetic test and the results imply that untested relatives also have the disease, have an increased risk of having it, or even being a carrier. Some family members may not wish to submit themselves to these physical discomforts.
To answer the question when might genetic engineering go too far, it already has if there can be article written about it, that in turn, allowed me to write this paper.
Genetic Engineering. Bio Tech Online Dictionary Hagedorn, Susan A., 21 April 2000
Hughes, J Ph. D. Embracing Change With All Four Arms: A Post humanist Defense of Genetic Engineering. Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics June 1996: 96-101.
Shenk, David. Biocapitalism: what price the genetic revolution? Harpers Magazine December 1997: 37. Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale Group. Johnson County Community Coll.Lib., Overland Park. 16 April 2000.
Shermer, Michael. ONLY GOD CAN Do That? Skeptic Spring 1999: 58 Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale Group. Johnson County Community Coll.Lib., Overland Park. 5 April 2000
Travis, John. Ewe again? Cloning from adult DNA. Science News 01 March 2000: 139
Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale Group. Johnson County Community Coll.Lib., Overland Park. 21 April 2000
Wilmut, Ian. The Ethics of Cloning. The American Enterprise September-October 1998: 57
Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale Group. Johnson County Community Coll.Lib.,Overland Park. 21 April 2000