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Agatha Jagla

Dr. Melina Martin

English 1102-130

7 May 2019

Why Legalizing Gene Therapies May Not Be Such a Bad Idea

Historically, society has always been against the controversial procedures of genetic

engineering. However, in recent years, attitudes have started to shift in favor of using certain

genetic procedures in medical care. This attitude shift is caused by a lot of research that has

proven that genetic engineering provides countless medical benefits. An example of such

research comes from China where Dr. He Jiankui has successfully managed to alter

mitochondrial genes in a pair of twins. When Dr. He Jiankui announced his results at a Human

Genome Editing Submit that was being held at the University of Hong Kong, he was faced with

severe backlash. Critics argued that his work was illegal and therefore should have never been

done despite its success. However, if genetic engineering was legalized, Dr. He Jiankui’s finding

would have been a revolutionary medical breakthrough that would forever change medical

genetics. Since medical procedures are advancing at such a rapid pace, the U.S government

needs to implement regulations on medically beneficial gene therapies so that medical clinic can

use them to treat patients. Despite that, not all gene therapies are created equal as those that alter

embryos are risky and unethical. Thus, gene therapies such as therapeutic cloning and gene

research that would be done on somatic (body) cells should become a part of standard medical
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care while gene therapies such as reproductive cloning that harm embryos or reproductive cells

should remain illegal.

Even with the limited research that has occurred, there is one gene therapy that stands out

due to its endless benefits. This gene therapy is therapeutic cloning. The most important

application of this procedure is its ability to repair damaged organs. Therapeutic cloning is a

technique in which a nucleus from a patient’s cell is transferred to a somatic stem cell that has

had nucleus removed. With the addition of a nucleus, these stem cells can differentiate into any

type of cell such as those that makeup organs. Once the engineered cells are placed into damaged

tissue, they take up and maintain the tissue’s function. This technique is revolutionary because

there are thousands of people who need organ transplants. However, most are unable to get them

because there is a severe lack of organ donors. If this technique became a part of standard

medical care, then anyone who needs an organ could easily get one. As a result, thousands of

lives would be saved annually. Additionally, therapeutic cloning results in the production of cells

that are genetically identical to the host. This is a very important factor because “the use of

autologous cells avoids rejection, and thus [harmful] side effects....can be avoided” (Koh & Atala

196). In the past, tissue rejection was a major concern of organ transplants but now, thanks to

therapeutic cloning, rejection would become a thing of the past. Using therapeutic cloning to

engineer tissue is also beneficial to those who do not need organ transplants. With this technique

it would be possible for patients to have a ready-made supply of their own tissue should they

ever need it in the future.

Besides tissue replacement, another practical application of therapeutic cloning is curing

genetic disorders and infertility. Recent research has proven that using therapeutic cloning in the
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form of genome editing can cure “multifactorial disease such as cancer, diabetes, age-related

illness, and protect against the burden of chronic disease” (Drabiak 3). As a result, “genome

editing [can be used as a] preventive medicine that will rid society of the burden of disease”

(Drabiak 3). This means that doctors will now be able to cure previously incurable diseases that

most people will develop during their lifetime. Putting genome editing to use would not only

prevent millions of people from suffering from common diseases, but it would also save the

healthcare industry millions to billions of dollars. A lot of common diseases require patients to

take medicine for the rest of their life. However, this technique can cure these diseases so that

patients do not have to be on pills for the rest of their life. No pills mean health insurance

companies won’t have to spend so much money on paying for patients medications. Besides just

curing diseases, gene editing can cure infertility. According to Drabiak “approximately twelve

percent of couples in the U.S. suffer from impaired fecundity… [which is] the inability to get

pregnant or carry a baby to term” (Drabiak 3). This illustrates just how big of an issue infertility

is in today’s society. If nothing is done about this, birth rates may fall below replacement rates.

This will result in an aging population that puts great stress on the economy. An aging

population means that there will be a smaller workforce but a greater demand for workers to help

care for the elderly.

Currently, not only are genetic engineering practices not being put into use, but research

is also very limited due to a lack of funding. This needs to change because additional genetic

research will result in medical benefits such as specific treatments for patients. An example of

relevant and effective gene research is pharmacogenomic research. This research studies how

one’s genes affect how their bodies respond to medications. Thus, “the aim of [this] research is
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to ensure “the right medicine for the right patient”” (Williams & Schroeder 90). If this research

will result in patient-tailored medicine, it is definitely worth funding. Patient-tailored

medications would eliminate dangerous side effects as well as reduce waste since medicine will

not be wasted on patients who can’t benefit from it. Another beneficial gene research is

researching population genetics. Knowing the genetic makeup of the population will help

researchers discover the links that exist between genes and diseases. If this research gets

legalized, “it will become possible to give tailor-made advice on lifestyle...to people [who are] at

risk of developing particular diseases” (Williams & Schroeder 91). Besides just advice, this

research will result in new drugs that can directly target genes that have a predisposition of

causing diseases. In this way, many genetic diseases will be prevented. A major problem with

gene therapies is that it is super expensive. However, if the government were to fund gene

research, then resulting medical discoveries would more than pay for themselves. Additionally,

with adequate funding, scientists can invent new techniques and improve old ones so that genetic

engineering becomes a lot cheaper in the future.

Despite all of the medical benefits that genetic engineering would provide, people are

hesitant to use it because they believe that it is unethical. This because they believe that often

patients do not fully understand what they are consenting to when they agree to get a procedure

done. Currently, “there is no international consensus about what to disclose...to patients” (Rosier,

Guedj, Calvas 2). This means that doctors do not have to disclose potential side effects.

However, in order for a medical procedure to become a part of standard medical care, it needs to

have extensive and thorough regulations that make sure that the procedure isn’t harmful to the

patient. Furthermore, there has been a global push for the legalization of gene therapies. This
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global movement would never exist if the benefits of gene therapies did not far outweigh its

risks. Moreover, people who oppose gene therapies argue that if genetic techniques were to

become common practice, then dangerous practices such as gene doping would also be allowed.

Despite that, most people fail to realize that most genetic procedures that are considered

dangerous have practical medical benefits. An example of a positive use of gene doping is to

cure muscular dystrophy which is when one’s muscles are greatly weakened. Yes, there are

inadequate uses to this technique such as athletes using it to improve their athletic performance.

However, with extensive government regulation, one can be sure that gene doping will only be

used for those who need it.

Although gene therapies such as therapeutic cloning and stem cell research should

become a part of health care, genetic engineering on embryos should remain prohibited as its

benefits do not out weight its risks. An example of genetic engineering on embryos is

reproductive cloning. According to dictionary.com, reproductive cloning is “the cloning of [an]

organism with the goal of planting the [embryo] produced by the technique into the ​uterus​ of an

adult female to create a new organism”. The main reason that ​reproductive cloning should be

prohibited is that altering and messing with embryos is unethical. As mentioned earlier,

reproductive cloning is still very risky so research to perfect this technique would require

sacrificing thousands of embryos in the name of science. This is immoral because only one’s self

should be the one to decide if they live or die, not the scientists who are experimenting on the

embryos. Who are we to decide who gets to live and who gets sacrificed? It is our duty as

humans to protect all other humans even if they are not born yet.
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Furthermore, reproductive cloning is unethical because it would allow for the creation of

designer babies​ whose genes have been permanently altered to physically or behaviorally

enhance them​.​ However, according to Michael Sandel, “trying to improve children by

manipulating their genetic makeup is reminiscent of eugenics, a discredited movement of the

past…that try[ed] to improve the human race” (Sandel 51). This illustrates that enhancing babies

is morally wrong because it would give a few kids a major advantage in today’s society. Also,

children are not Build-A-Bears whos traits can be picked out for them. Parents should love their

children for who they are no matter what they look like.

Besides reproductive cloning being unethical, it is also a very risky procedure. Not a lot

of research has been done in this area. For this reason, it is unclear if children conceived using

this method will be healthy. Although, as mentioned earlier, the twins that Dr. He Jiankui altered

were born healthy, there is no guarantee that they will remain that way. This has never been done

before so it is uncertain whether the procedure has any hidden side effects that could affect the

child’s quality of life as they get older. Furthermore, if other gene therapies were put into use

instead then “areas where adult stem cells are successful, the controversial embryonic stem cells

may not be necessary” (Kian & Leng 298). This is to say that there are alternative options to

modifying embryos. Thus, reproductive cloning is not necessary to advance medicine.

Additionally, research conducted by the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) has demonstrated

that the “public is overwhelmingly against [reproductive cloning]” (Kian & Leng 294). This is

due to the fact that people are afraid of cloning an entire human because it can easily go astray.

The government has a duty to do what's right for its citizens. So if people are afraid that
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reproductive cloning can lead to medical malpractice, the government should listen to its citizens

and prohibit the procedure.

Although reproductive cloning should remain illegal, it is important to mention that there

are a few benefits to this procedure. One of these is that by modifying embryos, doctors could

potentially prevent children from being born with genetic disorders or birth defects. A second

benefit is that reproductive cloning would “allow couples suffering from certain forms of

infertility to have children who are genetically related to them” (Sparrow 1). Nonetheless, people

fail to realize that these benefits come at a high cost. An example of a such a cost is that

reproductive cloning is still very experimental and “has not yet been shown [to] almost always

result in only physically healthy babies, [so], before we use the method, we are morally obligated

to get the informed consent of the person to be conceived” (Lane 3). With this in mind, it is

crucial that parents who want to conceive a child using reproductive cloning start thinking about

what they are putting their baby through instead of just thinking about what's most convenient

and beneficial for them.

Initially, it might be difficult and costly to implement gene therapies into hospitals all

over the nation. Nevertheless, the millions of lives that will be saved or improved as a result of

these procedures make the initial struggle worth it. After seeing all of its benefits, it's finally time

to stop talking about gene therapies and actually put therapeutic cloning and gene research into

action. Every century has its own medical breakthroughs that forever change people's lives. The

medical breakthrough for the 21st century could be therapeutic cloning and gene research if only

the government would make these beneficial procedures a part of standard medical care.
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However, the government also has a duty to protect its citizens from unethical medical practices.

For that reason, reproductive cloning should remain illegal for the time being.

Works Cited

Drabiak, Katherine. “Untangling the Promises of Human Genome Editing.” ​Journal of

Law, Medicine & Ethics,​ vol. 46, no. 4, Winter 2018, pp. 991–1009. ​EBSCOhost,​

doi:10.1177/1073110518822001.

Kian, Catherine Tay Swee, and Tien Sim Leng. “The Singapore Approach to Human

Stem Cell Research, Therapeutic and Reproductive Cloning.” ​Bioethics​, vol. 19, no. 3, June

2005, pp. 290–303. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2005.00442.x.

Koh, Chester J., and Anthony Atala. “Therapeutic Cloning Applications for Organ

Transplantation.” ​Transplant Immunology,​ vol. 12, no. 3/4, Apr. 2004, pp. 193–201. ​EBSCOhost​,

doi:10.1016/j.trim.2003.12.006.

Lane, R. “Safety, Identity and Consent: A Limited Defense of Reproductive Human

Cloning.” ​Bioethics​, vol. 20, no. 3, June 2006, pp. 125–135. ​EBSCOhost,​

doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2006.00486.x.

“Reproductive Cloning .” ​Dictionary.com ,​ 2005,

www.dictionary.com/browse/reproductive-cloning.
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Rosier, Marion, et al. “French People’s Views on the Appropriateness of Disclosing an

Unsolicited Finding in Medical Genetics: A Preliminary Study.” ​Universitas Psychologica,​ vol.

17, no. 4, Aug. 2018, pp. 1–11. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.11144/Javeriana.upsy17-4.fpva.

Sandel, Michael J. ​The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic

Engineering.​ Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

Sparrow, Robert.“Therapeutic Cloning and Reproductive Liberty.” ​Journal of Medicine &

Philosophy,​ vol. 34, no. 2, Apr. 2009, pp. 102–118. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.1093/jmp/jhp014.

4, Aug. 2018, pp. 1–11. ​EBSCOhost​, doi:10.11144/Javeriana.upsy17-4.fpva.

Williams, Garrath, and Doris Schroeder. “Human Genetic Banking: Altruism, Benefit

and Consent.” ​New Genetics & Society​, vol. 23, no. 1, Apr. 2004, pp. 89–103. ​EBSCOhost,​

doi:10.1080/1463677042000189598.

Zimmer, Carl. “Genetically Modified People Are Walking Among Us.” ​The New York Times​,

The New York Times, 1 Dec. 2018.