Is there a Genome Editing Right?

Biohackers are using CRISPR technology to edit their own genomes. Is there a genome editing right or should CRISPR tools be controlled substances?

The Facts

Josiah Zayner, recently reported, that he attempted to edit his own genome using the CRISPR. This story was reported in a number of outlets including Outside Magazine and Buzzfeed.

This self-experimentation is questionable on many levels. Using genome editing to increase muscle mass is a dubious goal. It’s not clear that the operation was successful. All we know is that he did not make himself sick.

We also know that Zayner is the CEO of The Odin, a company who develops and sells kits for amateurs genetic engineers. So, this self-experimentation may be seen as a great marketing stunt.

Is there a Genome Editing Right?

That being said, this experiment raises a more fundamental question. Should we have the right to edit our own genome?

We can envision a time where genome editing becomes easy enough to enable many people to edit their genome. This could be performed with performance enhancement goals. It could also be used by a patient to attempt to cure a chronic disease.

One could argue that biohackers may be more creative and less risk-averse than the pharmaceutical industry. Allowing biohackers to edit their own genome may lead to promising directions. Even if the probability of a miracle cure is minuscule, on which basis should we prevent someone from giving it a shot if his or her life is at stake?

Off-target effects, reactions to the vector, and a thousand of other things that can go wrong may be reasons to prevent this kind of self-experimentation because they can be potentially harmful. The remote possibility that a successful experimentation may result in transmissible genetic modifications is another good reason to discourage this type of biological adventures.

What do you think? Do you think that editing one’s own genome is a right? Or do you think that CRISPR reagents and kits should be labeled¬†as controlled substances?

Leave a comment below.

 

3 Responses to “Is there a Genome Editing Right?

  • Antony
    1 week ago

    It’s already a right. The declaration of human rights, article 27, includes the right to enjoy the results of science progress.

  • Abelard Lindsey
    1 week ago

    In terms of ethics and philosophy, having the right to edit one’s own genome is the just the logical extension of individual self-ownership, which is a foundational value of Classical Liberalism and Western Civilization since the 18th century. In terms of ethics and morality, there is no legitimate argument against this right.

    On the practical level, however, this could be a very dangerous thing to do to ones’ self. With lots of people doing all kinds of self-experimentation, there is bound to be many cases where people screw themselves up. When this happens, who pays for the medical treatment of these people if they are not able to fix the problem themselves? This is essentially the same issue with regards to recreational drug use and addiction. Who pays for the cases where people make burdens of themselves on the rest of society. On this issue alone, there is credible argument for regulation of this technology.

  • Being that it is your own body, you have a right to do with it as you please. Maybe there is a great new market opening up; cleaning up CRSPR Mistakes.

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