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The Ethics of Gene Editing from an Islamic Perspective: A Focus on the Recent Gene Editing of the Chinese Twins

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Abstract

In light of the development of “CRISPR” technology, new promising advances in therapeutic and preventive approaches have become a reality. However, with it came many ethical challenges. The most recent worldwide condemnation of the first use of CRISPR to genetically modify a human embryo is the latest example of ethically questionable use of this new and emerging field. Monotheistic religions are very conservative about such changes to the human genome and can be considered an interference with God’s creation. Moreover, these changes could cause perpetual changes to future generations. The Muslim scholars establish their decisions by addressing five foundations of Islamic law i.e. “maqāṣid al sharı̄`a”; the purposes of the law. These are dın̄ (religion), nafs (life), nasl (progeny), `aql (intellect) and māl (wealth). To achieve this, the five principles should all be met before approval of an experiment like the Chinese embryo modifications; Qaṣd (intention) which is achieved in this case as it aims to protect the embryo from HIV. Yaqın̄ (certainty) and Ḍarar (injury) were not satisfied as they require strong scientific certainty of the procedures, and evidence of safety. Ḍarūra (necessity) by which the alternatives being compared; in this case more established and proven safe alternatives to protect the HIV transmission from the father are available, so this principle is not met. The final principle is `Urf (custom), by which the social context of using any contemporary technology should be taken in consideration, and clearly this was not achieved. Collectively, germline changes are rejected from an Islamic perspective until the five principles are fulfilled. In the Chinese Twins gene editing case, there was clearly no justification or support for it according to the Muslim Jurisprudence laws. These laws and approaches can serve as an ethical checklist for such controversial research, especially in early stages of the research.

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Correspondence to Qosay A. E. Al-Balas.

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Al-Balas, Q.A.E., Dajani, R. & Al-Delaimy, W.K. The Ethics of Gene Editing from an Islamic Perspective: A Focus on the Recent Gene Editing of the Chinese Twins. Sci Eng Ethics 26, 1851–1860 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-020-00205-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-020-00205-5

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