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URGENT COMMENTS NEEDED ON WHO GUIDELINES ON HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING


last update: 20151221


URGENT COMMENTS NEEDED ON WHO GUIDELINES ON HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING

-----Original Message-----
from : Bill Albert
to : disability-research@mailbase.ac.uk

date : 08 May 1999 2:32
title : WHO and genetic engineering

Forwarded message

URGENT COMMENTS NEEDED ON WHO GUIDELINES ON HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING
The World Health Organisation's General Assembly will vote this month on
guidelines on bioethics. These are non-binding guidelines, but will be
highly influential, if accepted. They endorse the WHO's existing position
against reproductive cloning of human beings and have a number of other
good points. They are on the web, with an article from Nature reporting
them, at http://helix.nature.com/wcs.

A key weakness is the following sentence: 'At present germ line therapy
is not acceptable, but this should be reviewed with advancing
knowledge'. 'Germ line therapy' refers to inheritable genetic
engineering of humans (HGE), as opposed to existing techniques of 'gene
therapy' which do not involve changes which are inherited by offspring.


Human genetic engineering is completely unacceptable and should be subject
to an unconditional permanent ban, like cloning. However, the current
view of the scientific community, as reflected in the WHO draft, is that
the main reason for not doing HGE is that the technique itself might lead
to harmful mutations, which could cause genetic diseases. Whilst true,
this does not address any ethical or social issues, and if techniques
improve, it will not prevent some scientists from going ahead.

It is vital that people lobby the WHO calling for a permanent ban on human
genetic engineering. Here are some arguments you might use: 1. It is a
basic aspect of human dignity that human beings are what they are, and
must be accepted as such. They must not become objects of design by
others, however well meaning, otherwise the key distinction between humans
as subjects and objects to be manipulated at will, will disappear, with
dire consequences for human dignity. 2. The social consequences of this
change would be profound: it would be a new era of human history in which
the genetic constitution of the human race as a whole would become subject
to market forces. One likely consequence, given the expense of the
technique, would be that the rich would be able gain extra advantages for
their children, leading to a genetically-enhanced ruling elite. Lee
Silver,a biologist at Princeton University has said that this elite would
eventually become a separate species. Given the power of the technique,
in some instances it is certain that states would assume control over its
use, for eugenic purposes. 3. Once it was permitted for 'medical'
reasons it would be impossible to control its use for purposes of
'enhancement', as has been the case with surgery and many drugs. 4.
Although advocates of germline engineering argue for its medical benefits,
in fact there are extremely few instances where the avoidance of the birth
of genetically disabled children could not be accomplished by other means,
such as gamete donation, preimplantation diagnosis, adoption, termination
of pregnancy or non-parenthood.

It cannot be acceptable for the the above-mentioned ethical and social
consequences to be risked for the sake of the desires of a vanishingly
small number of people. In short HGE is a new form of techno-eugenics
which cannot be accepted, whatever slight benefits it may have. It cannot
be justified interms of 'reproductive freedom'. Please use your own
arguments and words and do not simply cut and paste these. A simple
expression of revulsion at the prospect of HGE will do.

Please send your comments to the WHO report's author, Abdullah Daar,
(asdoc@gto.net.om).

David King cahge@globalnet.co.uk

------------------------------
Bill Albert
The White House
Marionville Road
St.Clements Hill
Norwich, NR3 4DD
UK

Phone 01603 402003 From US 011 44 1603 402003
Fax 01603 423432 From US 011 44 1603 423432
e-mail w.albert@uea.ac.uk


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REV: 20151221