Ethical Issues of Using CRISPR Technologies for Research on Military Enhancement

Abstract

This paper presents an overview of the key ethical questions of performing gene editing research on military service members. The recent technological advance in gene editing capabilities provided by CRISPR/Cas9 and their path towards first-in-human trials has reinvigorated the debate on human enhancement for non-medical purposes. Human performance optimization has long been a priority of military research in order to close the gap between the advancement of warfare and the limitations of human actors. In spite of this focus on temporary performance improvement, biomedical enhancement is an extension of these endeavours and the ethical issues of such research should be considered. In this paper, we explore possible applications of CRISPR to military human gene editing research and how it could be specifically applied towards protection of service members against biological or chemical weapons. We analyse three normative areas including risk–benefit analysis, informed consent, and inequality of access as it relates to CRISPR applications for military research to help inform and provide considerations for military institutional review boards and policymakers.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for helpful feedback of the manuscript. This project was initiated while ZM was at the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or official policy of Peraton, the Department of Defense, or the United States Federal Government

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Correspondence to Zubin Master.

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Greene, M., Master, Z. Ethical Issues of Using CRISPR Technologies for Research on Military Enhancement. Bioethical Inquiry 15, 327–335 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-018-9865-6

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Keywords

  • CRISPR/Cas 9
  • Enhancement
  • Military
  • Ethics of research involving humans
  • Informed consent
  • Risk–benefit analysis