Nav: Home

Actress Kiruna Stamell debates gene editing with ethicist Dr. Christopher Gyngell

April 26, 2017

Two papers published today by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, debate gene editing and the health of future generations. Stage and screen actress Kiruna Stamell, who has a rare form of dwarfism, proposes that gene editing does not represent an improvement in healthcare; while Dr Christopher Gyngell, a research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, argues that provided it is well regulated, gene editing could greatly improve the health of our descendants.

Stamell writes that if gene editing is used simply to 'disappear' certain conditions and thus certain types of people, we must look at the ethics and impact of this more broadly and redefine what it means to be 'healthy' on a micro and macro level.

She believes that gene editing has far-reaching complications that affect more than individual health. She says: "Gene editing, if only available to certain groups, will drive social inequality further as those who can't afford it are left behind or discriminated against for having been born, when the opportunity was there for them to never have existed at all."

Stamell asks: "Will those people be left unsupported by a society that prefers to weed them out rather than allow them access and a share of its wealth and benefits?" She voices concern for future generations as variation is edited out. "Small differences begin to be perceived as greater ones and society's ability to adapt and accommodate differences will shrink" she says. She concludes that a community of people who have forgotten how to adapt and embrace diversity can't be healthy for anyone.

Gyngell discusses the difficult and complex questions raised about disability, diversity and risks to human health. How to distinguish healthy forms of human diversity from disease and disability is, he writes, a subject of intense debate in philosophy but we should not let conceptual uncertainty be a barrier to the development of gene editing.

The use of gene editing in research, he writes, will greatly increase our knowledge of development and could lead to novel treatments for disease. He says: "Using gene editing to study early development could lead to a greater understanding of the causes of infertility and to better treatment options."

Gyngell goes onto describe how gene editing will be able to correct the mutations associated with fatal genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The incidence of these conditions can be reduced by using genetic selection techniques but, according to Gyngell, we may have reasons to prefer gene editing. He says: "Selection prevents disease by changing who comes into existence, whereas gene editing ensures those who come into existence have the best shot of living a full life."

Gyngell concludes that a case-by-case system of regulation for gene editing could work to both reduce rates of fatal genetic disease and avoid risking traits that may represent valuable types of diversity.
-end-
Gene editing and the health of future generations (DOI:10.1177/0141076817705616) by Christopher Gyngell and Why gene editing isn't the answer (DOI: 10.1177/0141076817706278) by Kiruna Stamell will be published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine at 00:05 hrs (UK time) on Thursday 27 April 2017.

The links for the papers when published will be:

Gyngell:
https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076817705616

Stamell:
https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076817706278

For further information or a copy of the papers please contact:

Rosalind Dewar
Media Office, Royal Society of Medicine
DL: +44 (0) 1580 764713
M: +44 (0) 7785 182732
E: media@rsm.ac.uk

The JRSM is the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and is published by SAGE. It has full editorial independence from the RSM. It has been published continuously since 1809. Its Editor is Dr Kamran Abbasi.

Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 1000 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. A growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company's continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne. http://www.sagepublishing.com

SAGE

Related Diversity Articles:

Insect diversity boosted by combination of crop diversity and semi-natural habitats
To enhance the number of beneficial insect species in agricultural land, preserving semi-natural habitats and promoting crop diversity are both needed, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied of Ecology.
Ethnolinguistic diversity slows down urban growth
Where various ethnic groups live together, cities grow at a slower rate.
Protecting scientific diversity
The COVID-19 pandemic means that scientists face great challenges because they have to reorient, interrupt or even cancel research and teaching.
Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.
Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota
The diversity of bacteria in the human gut is an important biomarker of health, influences multiple diseases, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases and affects various treatments.
Underestimated chemical diversity
An international team of researchers has conducted a global review of all registered industrial chemicals: some 350,000 different substances are produced and traded around the world -- well in excess of the 100,000 reached in previous estimates.
New world map of fish genetic diversity
An international research team from ETH Zurich and French universities has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time.
Biological diversity as a factor of production
Can the biodiversity of ecosystems be considered a factor of production?
Fungal diversity and its relationship to the future of forests
Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.
Brain diseases with molecular diversity
Parkinson's and multisystem atrophy (MSA) - both of them neurodegenerative diseases - are associated with the accumulation of alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain.
More Diversity News and Diversity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.