In 2017, European doctors were tasked with saving Hassan, a young boy, who was fighting for his life. He was suffering from the life-threatening genetic disease, epidermolysis bullosa. This caused Hassan to have extremely fragile skin that was torn, blistered, and prone to skin cancer. The doctors implemented gene therapy to cure this genetic disease and grow new skin for the boy. This eight month process ended up being a success and allowed Hassan to wake up from a medically-induced coma healthy and with new skin. However, this treatment was costly and is not always successful which makes it difficult for researchers to envision gene therapy as a future solution for curing genetic diseases (Grady).
Genetic engineering is becoming more prevalent in today’s society as the science and technology world continues to grow and new discoveries are made everyday. This increase in knowledge brings into question whether using these new discoveries is morally right. Supporters of this new technology argue that it will successfully save lives and improve our society. It can ensure that harmful genetic diseases will be eliminated from our world and allow humans to live much healthier lives. They support the idea that if we have the technology to improve the human race, we should use it. Genetic engineering could remove any human suffering from unwanted diseases, or even traits. However, opponents to genetic engineering claim that it will create a sense of competition due to the idea that parents will have the ability to edit their offspring to have more desirable traits. They argue that modifying humans is playing God and that it is ethically wrong to use genetic engineering to accomplish this goal of a superior race (Darnovsky). The enhancement of genes could also create a social divide as the wealthy will be able to afford these modifications while others will not have this option. The opponents to genetic engineering claim that this divide could completely separate those that aim for perfection from those that choose to not edit their children (Green). When discussing the morality of whether or not genetic engineering should be legal, it is necessary to discuss the views of different global perspectives and how it would affect the people being treated. Debating the social and economic impacts will help resolve this issue, either arguing for or against the use of genetic engineering on humans in order to create a better world for all people.
Genetic engineering has the capability to save the lives of many people. 80% of rare diseases do not show immediate symptoms after birth. This high percentage represents genetic diseases that humans are suffering from. These genetic diseases are the cause of 35% of deaths in the first year of life for newborns. It is argued that genetic engineering should be legal so that people would not have to worry about suffering from potentially life-threatening genetic diseases (Rare). Genetic engineering has proven effective in many cases such as Hassan, the young boy mentioned before. If these methods are successful in helping people and saving lives, they should be legalized and used. Supporters believe that the legalization of genetic engineering will help increase research and make it a reliable option to those who are suffering.
Another form of genetic engineering is gene therapy. Gene therapy is a treatment that doctors can use by introducing helpful genes into a patient’s cells to give them a protein that they do not have or to stop any disease-causing genes from spreading. This could be beneficial to cure diseases and do it without the side effects of normal drug treatments. Unlike other treatments, the body will not reject its own genetically altered cells. This means it will be a much more effective solution for humans in need of treatment (Christopher). A strong supporter of genetic engineering is David A. Christopher, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Molecular Physiology and Molecular Biosciences and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Hawaii. His credentials in the science field make him a strong source because he has his own perspective on genetic engineering and how it could be beneficial to humans around the world (Christopher).
However, his argument is slightly one-sided. This is because he only discusses the positive impacts of genetic engineering and does not include any failures that may have occurred in genetic engineering. Genetic engineering of embryos can be used to stop genetic diseases from ever becoming a problem by removing them before a child is even born. If embryos are modified, the risk of obtaining a genetic disease after birth will be largely reduced or not life-threatening. Ronald M. Green, a professor of ethics at Dartmouth College, argues that the technology to modify embryos and remove the genetic diseases is available and should be implemented. He includes an example where he examines different scenarios for whether or not genetic engineering of the embryos should be allowed. The first example claims that if we know the genetic causes for obesity, we can implement genetic engineering to alter the embryo in order to make a child less likely to become overweight or get other diseases that come from obesity. Green also explains that geneticists will be able to change DNA sequences so that no child has to deal with physical or cognitive problems such as dyslexia. Supporters claim that no child should have to struggle with issues they have little control over if there is technology that is capable of editing their genes and avoiding the mutation responsible for these problems. This source is credible as it comes from Gale Group Online, which is a free website that provides research on global issues and different viewpoints to support each stand point. Ronald M. Green is credible because he is educated in this field and has a different viewpoint on the morality of genetic engineering because he teaches an ethics class. His argument is very well balanced because he provides both positive and negative arguments of the debate and works to prove why the negative ideas are inaccurate (Green).
Opponents to the genetic engineering of humans frequently argue that modifying our own human race is immoral and therefore should not be legal. Genetic engineering was first meant to be implemented to end genetic diseases. However, with this technology it would be possible to modify humans so that they can have desirable traits. Humans could be edited to be taller, smarter, stronger, or many other traits. It is argued that this should be illegal because opponents claim that it is playing God by choosing and changing the traits of a human. The modifying of traits is also seen as immoral because the humans that are receiving these edits do not have any say because they are not born yet. The parents spend a lot of money and decide the modifications. This creates an expectation to uphold the desirable traits they were given. For example, if parents choose their child to be tall, quick, and athletic, there would be pressure on that child to become a basketball player even if it is not something they want to do (Tapson).
Mark Tapson is a strong supporter that genetic engineering of humans should not be legal. He says genetic engineering is frightening and that much could go wrong. Tapson is a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, as well as a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Even though he is not employed in this field, Tapson has a strong opinion and uses credible research throughout his report and explains where he got the information. He brings an opposing perspective but is slightly biased because he is arguing his opinion (Tapson). However, he works to explain both sides of the argument and why legalizing genetic engineering on humans is not the better option. In addition, challengers to genetic engineering argue that allowing humans to modify their genes for more desirable traits would result in a social divide. Genetic engineering would be expensive, so not all would be able to afford it. This would create an even greater division between the rich and the poor, encouraging segregation. Moreover, if genetic engineering is legal, people may not participate, even if they can afford it, because they find it immoral. Some scientists claim that this separation will lead to two entirely separate species that are no longer able to cross-breed. In order to avoid this segregation and the problems that would come with it, it is argued that genetic engineering should not be legal (King).
Many researchers say that human genetic engineering brings about the risk of new genetic mutations. They argue that if genetic engineering helps a patient, there should not be any possible negative side effects to this cure. Furthermore, there are very few examples of genetic diseases where genetic engineering is the only option. The majority of the time there are other options available to those who are suffering or at risk (King). This source is credible because it comes from Gale Group Online. The author, David King, is a former biologist and the director of Human Genetics Alert. Human Genetics Alert is a UK organization that is against human genetic engineering. King is a credible source because he is informed on the topic and knowledgeable of his side due to his job in this field. However, he is slightly biased because his job is opposed to the genetic engineering of humans which makes his arguments one-sided because he is working to prove that genetic engineering should not be legalized. From the perspective arguing that genetic engineering of humans should be legal, they claim that genetic engineering has the capability to save lives. They state that if this is the case, then it should be implemented and allowed to save as many people as possible. They argue that it can prevent genetic diseases in unborn babies and cure humans who already have genetic diseases. On the other hand, those against genetic engineering say that it is not needed to save lives as there are numerous other options. They argue that genetic engineering is not always successful and can bring about new risks that are not currently here. Both sides of this debate bring up different ideas on how genetic engineering can improve or hurt human society as a whole. After considering both sides of this issue, the genetic engineering of humans should be legal. The main opposition to legalization is that it should be viewed as immoral. However, based on the evidence shown, genetic engineering can save and make lives better and make the world more efficient. It is moral to help people if genetic engineering can be effective, outweighs all of the negative consequences.
The most compelling argument to support this side is that genetic engineering will save the lives of a high percentage of people struggling with diseases they cannot control. Still, since genetic engineering has not been successful in all cases, more research must be down. The world has the technology capable to do genetic engineering. Further research would come with legalization, making it an even better alternative. The answer to this issue is that genetic engineering needs to become legal so that it can be further implemented into society. More investigation needs to be done to decide what, if any, regulations should be placed on genetic engineering in order to avoid a societal divide. If governments give genetic engineering the attention it deserves, it could increase the quality of life for millions of people.
If I continued my research, I would learn more about the new gene editing technique referred to as CRISPR-Cas9. This method would remove the mistake in the genetic code which would change genes and avoid the patient and their offspring from getting those genetic diseases. This seems like an effective solution to making genetic engineering a positive solution that can improve society. It would be interesting in devoting more time to understanding this alternative solution.
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