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Walking a Fine Germline: Synthesizing Public Opinion and Legal Precedent to Develop Policy Recommendations for Heritable Gene-Editing

  • Symposium: Emerging Technologies
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Gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9, are internationally ethically fraught. In the United States, policy surrounding gene-editing has yet to be implemented, while the science continues to speed ahead. However, it is not enough that policy be implemented: in order for policy to establish limits for the technology such that benefits are possible while threats are kept at bay, such policy must be ethical. In turn, the ethics of gene-editing is a culturally determined field of inquiry. This piece presents a proposal for a study whose goal is to arrive at ethical policy recommendations for policymakers. To achieve this goal, this study proposes, what needs to be done is, first, to understand the full history and foundation of gene-editing by conducting a thorough legal, bioethical, and policy review for precedent assisted reproductive technologies and genetic reproductive technologies. Following this effort, an empirical study must be conducted involving careful surveys of key stakeholder groups on their knowledge and opinions of gene-editing. Such stakeholder groups must include bioethicists, medical geneticists, and lay persons, including those in the disability community.

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This work was funded by the following grants: P50 HG007257/HG/NHGRI NIH HHS/United States and RM1HG007257/HG/NHGRI NIH HHS/United States.

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Correspondence to Shawna Benston.

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Benston, S. Walking a Fine Germline: Synthesizing Public Opinion and Legal Precedent to Develop Policy Recommendations for Heritable Gene-Editing. Bioethical Inquiry 19, 421–431 (2022).

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