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Edited by Enrico Colombatto
Chapter 12: Germline Engineering: Whose Right?
12 Germline engineering: whose right? Lloyd Cohen* Introduction The issue to which I shall direct my attention in this chapter is human ‘germline engineering’. This term refers to the coming prospect of changing the genetic code of human embryos. There are many within the community of philosophers, scientists, ‘medical ethicists’ and laymen who oppose such tinkering. I do not; I relish the prospect. If there is some justiﬁcation in prohibiting germline engineering it must rest on the evil or harm of the activity. I make a distinction between evil and harm to allow for the possibility that some action might fall in the ﬁrst category (evil) while not falling in the second (harm), that is, that there is a moral dimension to human action independent of its effect – or intended effect – on other human beings. But because as a lawyer and economist I can offer no special insight into evil, I shall restrict my inquiry to harm. My ultimate argument ﬂows from the outcome of the analysis of the various potential harms alleged to ﬂow from germline engineering. While I ﬁnd that there may be minor categories that are problematic, these are no more than quirky – almost bizarre – exceptions to the central case, that is, that germline intervention will yield an enormous improvement in the human lot. Those exceptional instances in which one could imagine germline intervention resulting in harm to the human condition or prospect neither require nor justify any signiﬁcant restraint or prohibition of germline intervention...
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