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Monday, January 27, 2014

Don't let morally myopic geeks rule the world: FDA to consider baby-cloning technique

If you're not a geneticist and gloss over bioethics news reports that have too many words longer than six letters, join the club. But sometimes it takes liberal arts graduates to rein in mad scientists, because bespectacled geeks focused too long on their microscopes can easily fall prey to moral myopia.
That seems to be the case as some scientists push the ethical envelope in genetics and human cloning. The most recent scientific schemes entail creating test tube babies, by killing two human embryos or by cloning human babies from destroyed embryos. If only this were the stuff of science fiction...but the FDA is actually formally considering these weird and wrong techniques.
Usually only bioethically rogue countries--like China and England--allow such techniques. But now the US FDA Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee has announced it will hold a committee meeting to consider these issues ("oocyte modification in assisted reproduction for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease or treatment of infertility").
If you're still reading after that mouthful, check out this article and also the formal comment below that I submitted to the FDA for the Christian Medical Association:

Food and Drug Administration
Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
1401 Rockville Pike, HFM-71
Rockville, MD 20852
Transmitted via email to

RE: Public comment submission to the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee, regarding its consideration of oocyte modification in assisted reproduction for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease or treatment of infertility
The 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, opposes germ line genetic engineering on prudential, ethical and humanitarian grounds:

1.      Mitochondrial transfer poses an unacceptable prudential risk, since our nascent knowledge of genetics remains grossly inadequate to predict unintended genetic consequences passed down to future generations.

2.      Germ line genetic engineering also transgresses the ethical principle of autonomy; no successive generation can provide informed consent for the consequences of the precursor generation's genetic experimentation.

3.      Techniques such as "pronuclear transfer"--a method of cloning from an IVF embryo--involve destroying living, genetically complete human embryos, further violating moral and ethical boundaries.

4.      Procedures involving germ line genetic engineering are not essential, since ethical options remain for women with an identified high risk. Providing a loving home for a child through adoption, for example, far surpasses any perceived value of retaining a measure of genetic relation attained at the risk of tragic genetic consequences.

5.      Opening the door to germ line genetic engineering also opens the door to the dehumanizing, utilitarian quest for perfect children--"designer babies." Rather than treating children as a commodity fulfilling parents' dreams, our humanitarian values and our Constitution require us to treat every human being as inherently valuable and worthy of love, respect and protection.

We urge the Committee to reject oocyte modification in assisted reproduction as unacceptably risky, unethical and inhumane.
Thank you for your consideration of these views.


Visit this web site for details on how to submit a written comment or make an oral presentation to the committee.

Your comment need not be long; the important thing is to make your life-affirming views known. Don't let morally myopic geeks rule the world.

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