bioetica · diritti · DNA · futuro · generazioni · identità · malattia · salute · trapianto

Does germ-line therapy harm to future generations?

Marco Tuono

An ethical reasoning interested in germ-line therapy cannot ignore the impact this attempt of treatment has regarding future generations. If one interpretative line could stress the fact that they are voiceless (future generations, some moral philosophers maybe could argue, cannot give an informed consent about the altered genome they will receive), on the other hand we must emphasize that the focus here is on the right people should have to inherit an unmodified human gene pool. The implicit thougth that substantiates the position we investigate is the following: living persons are not the only field that this reasoning covers: the horizon extends up to embrace what unites individuals through time: the species. So the right above mentioned concerns, at the same time, two subjets. The individual and the species are both, in this light, in the condition to claim what could be called a “natural structure”, which is, indeed, common to the ontogenetic and the phylogenetic level. In other words, the argument we consider, proposing the ban to germline therapy, is divided in two sectors that, however, remain connected sharing the key point based on the premise that the DNA must remain unhaltered – which conducts directly, as noticed before, to the right to ensure the identity (genomic and personal or concerning the species) as unchanged.
Firstly, concerning the individual, an equivalence between the pool of genes and a person’s personal identity could be seen. Herein, the DNA plays a prominent role leading the lifes of persons. According to this form of reductionism, the person is conceived merely as the product of his or her genes.
Secondly, what is said about the individual should be reffered to the entire species. In other words, the latter has the germ line just as individuals have.
We can respond to these positions that 1) seeing a risk in terms of individual freedom linked to born with a modified genetic heritage means adopting a deterministic point of view as regards to the fields of biology and genetic. 2) In the narrow sense, the pool of genes is an abstraction. Because of its internal dynamism, the evolutionary process is unmanageable, therefore modifying the DNA does not mean to orient it removing the freedom of the individual or the unpredictable changes of the species. Thinking in this way implies owning a merely statical conception of the DNA, while its essence, so to speak, is the constant flux.
To conclude, looking from the topic of the ethical problems connected to our moral duties related to future generations – but similar consequences can be traced for example considering the topic of human cloning – our conclusion is that the refusal of applying the engeneering technique in attempt to treat genetic disease is not acceptable. A prohibition of this kind consists in an oversimplification because it can be founded only on a deterministic (once referred to individuals) and statical (referred instead to the species) idea of the DNA.


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