2016-2017

GENETICALLY MODIFIED LIFE

As technology continues to evolve, genetic modifications and treatments will become more prevalent in our everyday life. With these changes,, many questions will arise. For instance, just because we can, should we? Ethics is all about making personal, cultural, and societal choices. A group of people could have different opinions on an ethical dilemma because of their different backgrounds and values.  One must begin to consider different perspectives and decisions that will impact society as well as close loved ones and future generations.

Our theme of Genetically Modified Life refers to many different aspects of the field of genetics. What is natural? What does it mean to be human? What is a “normal” family dynamic? How do new technologies allow us to break those stereotypes? One must weigh the benefits and the potential harms that could come up through the development of these new technologies.

Genetically Modified Life Glossary


Garment Genetics: The Ethics of Consuming Genetically Modified Clothing

Have you ever wondered if there are more parts of the discussion surrounding the ethics of fast fashion? What about the fibers themselves, specifically the genetically modified ones? With fibers used in clothing being genetically modified more and more, we must begin to consider the ethical implications of the modification itself and of consuming garments containing these modified fibers. This paper continues the conversation by discussing these issues and explores the technologies used to genetically engineer fibers, the environmental implications, the ethical implications of genetically modifying life and the impacts on the different stakeholders using values and principles of ethics.

Read more...


UNLOCKING AND UNLEASHING ALL GENOMES: IS THIS EVEN UP TO YOU?

Imagine a world where your whole existence and what people viewed you as was entirely based on your genome. Even though, you did not ask to find out things such as your probability to obtain a certain disease in the future: this decision was made for you and now you are forced to live it. If today’s newborn screening system is expanded so that a child’s full genome is sequenced at birth, a whole new string of information would be accessible about the child’s future in this world. It is possible that no information would be held back, including the probability of late onset diseases. If given the option, a child might not have wanted to gain knowledge of that, or might have wanted to learn it when she was older and perhaps opted to keep the information from her parents. On the other hand, finding out at birth means, the parents help their child prepare financially and mentally for the procedures that will need to occur in their future, instead of being blindsided by this type of news. That is, the child’s autonomy to make the decision for oneself about whether to be tested and when, can conflict with the benefit to the family of being able to discover more about themselves and how to help their child. Furthermore, sequencing the genomes of newborn babies could have social implications relating to privacy and justice in a person’s employment, insurance and everyday relationships. Is there a solution to learning more about one’s child without interfering with that child’s freedom to make their own decisions about what they would like to know and not know?

Read more…


A SMARTER WORLD: HOW FAR WILL WE GO?

Our imperfections and struggles are commonly held to make life more meaningful; but, why would we insist on passing down weaknesses that result in marked disadvantages to others, especially if the power to fix them were just at our fingertips? The possibility of using emerging reproductive technologies with expanding knowledge of the human genome’s relationship to cognition as a way to create more intelligent offspring will likely soon become reality, and it presents difficult issues. How far can improvement go before it becomes harmful, and how can that be measured? The adoption of these technologies has the potential to alter individuals and society as a whole. This paper explores many of the ethical and social (as well as economic and regulatory) challenges that these new technologies present, while also highlighting and commenting on similar issues society already faces today in a variety of spheres. It will close with recommendations for future use of such technology at the individual, national, and international levels.

Read more…


THE EUGENICS OF INTELLIGENCE: THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF HUMAN GENOME EDITING ON COGNITIVE ABILITY

The advancement of technology in the field of genetic engineering may soon make it possible to alter DNA so precisely that human traits may be edited with a few simple tweaks to the human genome. One example of this genetic engineering is improving human intelligence. Proponents argue that society would benefit greatly from a more intelligent human race. Critics contend that human genome editing for purposes of enhancement, rather than for curing and preventing disease, would bring the world dangerously close to crossing a line of no return, thus sparking a debate about the ethicality of modifying genetic imperfections. This paper will explore that ethical debate beginning with a discussion of intelligence and its genetic basis. It will then explore a history of earlier attempts to enhance intelligence, followed by an overview of current genetic technology and an analysis of the issues posed by enhancing intelligence using such technology. This paper will then provide an overview of how future technological advancements will affect the eugenics of intelligence and will end with a discussion about the individual and societal implications of the genetic modification of intelligence. It should be noted, however, that the ethical discussions presented in this paper are based on the assumption that human intelligence can be manipulated genetically, and as we will see, this is far from the case at this time.

Read more…


PRECISION VS. TRIAL & ERROR: YOUR GENOME CAN POTENTIALLY SAVE YOUR LIFE…BUT AT WHAT COST?

When your father almost passes away, you start to think of all the what-if questions. What if the doctors made or make a mistake? What if his medication is too strong or not potent enough? What would happen if I lost him? Now imagine you could answer some of these questions with one simple test.

Pharmacogenomics is the use of one’s genetic information, or genome, to assist in the decision making process of choosing the proper drug type and dosage that will allow for the body to have the best possible response. With the isolation of specific genes among the thousands, doctors have the capability to embrace “precision” methods to ensure that patients have a greater chance of receiving a better pharmaceutical treatment, as long as it remains within the limits of the testing. In this paper, the ethical values of safety, fairness and autonomy will be explored in relation to the method of pharmacogenomics and if it were to be implemented in the United States as a possible standard of care technique. Ultimately, the goal of this paper is to analyze and deduce an answer to the main ethical focus question: Should all citizens of the United States have their genome sequenced as a requirement for medical records?, while pondering whether pharmacogenomics will become an accepted form of standard care in future society.

You decide your medical future and remember, your life may depend on the choices you make. Now you must decide: do you want the help?

Read more…


GENE DOPING: CHALLENGING THE FUTURE OF SPORTS

If you were a professional athlete and had the ability to become an all around better athlete and have an increased chance of winning by making a simple change to your DNA, would you? Gene doping, a specific form of gene therapy, has the ability to create “super humans” by editing a person’s DNA to add, remove, or suppress specific genes for athletic purposes. The use of gene doping has sparked ethical debates over whether or not gene doping should be allowed. This paper will explore the values ingrained in sports, specifically fairness,  and the purpose of sports, in addition to discussing regulation and detection issues, possible consequences, and solutions in an attempt to solve the controversy of gene doping.

Read more…


WHO REALLY NEEDS SAVING? THE ETHICS OF SAVIOR SIBLINGS AND THEIR AUTONOMY

What decisions do we have the authority to make that will have an affect on others? How can we weigh the benefits and the consequences? What happens if we make the wrong decision? These are the types of questions that parents face when deciding how to treat their child that has a life threatening disease. With the emergence of a new technology known as savior siblings, parents are able to conceive a child that will be a perfect fit to cure their other sick child. Although the technology necessary to create savior siblings raises many ethical concerns. Could this be interpreted as giving a child a purpose to serve as a treatment for their sibling? What would happen if the savior sibling decided that he or she no longer wanted to treat their sibling? This raises the ethical dilemma surrounding a child’s autonomy in the medical field; a crucial consideration to the concept of savior siblings. This paper will explore the major ethical concerns that arise surrounding the topic of savior siblings specifically focusing on the values of nonmaleficence, parental duty, and autonomy.

Read more…


I WANT A DEAF CHILD: PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES, CULTURAL ASPECTS, AND HARM OF CHOOSING THE “FLAWED” EMBRYO

When you hear the saying, “like father like son” or, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” you may think, the child is like their parents. But what about when parents want to select a child who is like them? For example, some Deaf couples are trying to use embryo testing and selecting technology, called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to intentionally select the embryo with the inherited deaf gene. The complexity of this case is greatly affected by the rich Deaf community in which Deaf people can take pride in. Because of this community, some Deaf people consider themselves part of a linguistic minority and not disabled, and sign language is just another dialect. In this paper, the Deaf community and values associated with each side will be explored. Are the parents making the best decision for their child? How does the physician and society play a role in the case, both directly and indirectly? Finally, what would the child think if they learned they were chosen to be deaf by their parents? This genetic screening technology can impact the way we think about communities and people who are different or similar to us when faced with questions such as, “should deaf couples be able to select the deaf embryo?”

Read more…


[DIS]ABILITY: A “CURE” FOR DOWN SYNDROME

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have made a discovery they named “a cure in a Petri dish,” which silences the chromosome that causes Down Syndrome. By inserting a gene called XIST, (which is normally used to silence the second X chromosome in female mammals) scientists could silence the extra chromosome 21 causing Down Syndrome. When comparing brain cells with and without the gene XIST, scientists found that the brain cells with the gene were developing faster and were able to form cells without the extra chromosome. This discovery has the potential to essentially turn off the genetic material that causes the medical conditions often associated with Down Syndrome.

The controversy that surrounds this new discovery in chromosome therapy is somewhat similar to the controversy around abortion. Abortion and chromosome therapy are similar in the sense that both are taking away something that never got to develop and grow. However, chromosome therapy is different because this process eliminates part of the potential child’s identity, while abortion eliminates the fetus all together.

Consequently, by “curing” Down Syndrome are we taking away a part of one’s identity? Are people with Down Syndrome at a disadvantage? Does chromosome therapy come with less risk than the health issues that come with Down Syndrome? This essay explores what it means to be differently abled in the context of Down Syndrome, as it is a unique condition that many don’t consider to be a disability, and the possible ethical dilemmas that arise with the potential of chromosome therapy.

Read more…


A UNIQUE DRIVE TO GENETIC PARENTHOOD: THE EFFICACY AND AUTONOMOUS DECISION MAKING OF MITOCHONDRIAL REPLACEMENT THERAPY

We were taught throughout biology that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but did you know that faulty mitochondrial DNA can lead to diseases that are fatal? To resolve this issue, scientists have created a procedure known as Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy that utilizes DNA from three different people: the intended biological mother and father as well as donor (female). Along with this, an analysis of the drive to become a genetic parent, or the “biological imperative” to become a genetic parent is crucial. How strong is this drive? If it is solid, how can we meet this need while still using this therapy, if needed? Throughout this ethical dilemma, you will be questioning the priority of your own rights versus your potential child’s’ autonomy along with debating the ramifications of the therapy.

Read more…


“TREATMENT” OF AN IDENTITY: AN EXPLORATION OF ACHONDROPLASIA THROUGH A SURGICAL LENS

Imagine a characteristic important to you was taken away. How would you feel? With new scientific innovations, researchers have been able to “correct” certain genetic mutations. In the context of Achondroplasia, patients are able to receive limb-lengthening surgeries that enable them to become about 3-4 inches taller. Although one may initially think that this procedure would be ideal, it begs the question is this taking something away from their identity as a person with dwarfism? Achondroplasia is a genetic condition. Just because an aspect of your physical identity is no longer associated with your genetic identity, does this mean your identity as a whole is different?This paper will explain what an identity is and how a condition like achondroplasia can affect it. Additional information on Achondroplasia, as well as various treatment procedures will be provided. The ethical values that will be elaborated on include beneficence, fairness and autonomy. The paper will ultimately explore achondroplasia through surgical means. It will answer the question: Are people altering their identity when they alter their appearance?

Read more…


THE ETHICS OF CROSS-BORDER REPRODUCTIVE TRAVEL: GESTATIONAL SURROGACY

In this paper, the role of the biological imperative when parents make decisions regarding gestational surrogacy is assessed. Cross-border reproductive involving gestational surrogacy circumstances are described, and the varying incentives for this travel are examined with the values of justice, autonomy, and fairness in mind. Australia, the United Kingdom and India’s gestational surrogacy laws are examined and assessed for accessibility and fairness.This ethical dilemma is even likened to that of kidney commodification to make a stronger argument about the ethics of compensating someone for services that they otherwise may not have consented to.

Read more…