Georgetown Medical Ethicist Voices Concern About Human Genetic Editing Claimed by Chinese Scientist


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  • newswise-fullscreen Georgetown Medical Ethicist Voices Concern About Human Genetic Editing Claimed by Chinese Scientist

    Credit: Georgetown University Medical Center

    Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD. Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center

WASHINGTON (November 26, 2018) –– Media outlets are reporting that a Chinese scientist says he performed genetic editing to create twins girls who are resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  This would be the first known case of humans undergoing genetic editing before birth. The announcement has stunned the medical and scientific community. 

Medical ethicist Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD, says a scientist's rush to "be the first" ought not put patients at risk. 

“Almost all scientists and ethicists consider it morally irresponsible to attempt gene editing on human embryos intended to be brought to term,” says Sulmasy, a professor of medicine and philosophy at Georgetown University. “First, it is becoming clear that there are unintended and unpredictable effects, some of which can be deleterious. Not enough animal studies have been done to know that this can be accomplished safely. Secondly, any effects on an embryo will affect the reproductive cells and will be passed on to subsequent generations.” 

Sulmasy is a member of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center who serves as acting director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. 

To interview Sulmasy, please contact Karen Teber at km463@georgetown.edu.

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