Ethical Issues of Genetic Research

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Scientific and technological advances are the products of man's inherent desire to improve the society in which he lives. Such progress often accompanies an expansion of intellectual boundaries. As one acquires knowledge, one also encounters new opportunities to be explored. This is true in the area of human genome research. The implications of The Human Genome Project and other attempts to further understand the human genetic code clearly demonstrate the basic principles of social benefit versus social cost. The desired effect is obviously one in which the benefits significantly outweigh the costs. The actual impact of such technology, however, remains only an estimate until this scientific advancement becomes a reality. It is out of this inability to predict how new technology may transform society that controversy arises. For if one estimates the value of knowledge and progress to ultimately influence society in a negative manner, then, perhaps such advancement should not be attempted. The Human Genome Project and other studies involving genetic research invite debate on the most controversial and highly moral issues that characterize and define the nature of life.

The controversy arises from both the techniques and aims of gene therapy. Gene therapy attempts to correct the "deleterious effect(s) of a genetic disorder"(Wheale & McNally, 212) through the replacement or repair of defective genes in human cells. The basic technique of such therapy involves either replacing the activity of a defective gene with a previously dormant gene or inserting genetic material into defective cells(212). The danger of such therapy is due to risks inherent in the techniques. Scientists, for example, may not fully and accurately...

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...r. Our enthusiasim must be matched by cautionary measures against discrimination(racial or otherwise), exploitation, and invasions of privacy. The desired goal should be to create an environment that promotes scientific progress and protects those elementary assumptions we hold valuable to life.

Works Cited

British Medical Association. Our Genetic Future. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Butler, Declan. "Pope condemns `immoral' embryo research." Nature 6 April 1995: 489.

Esbjornson, Robert, ed. The Manipulation of Life. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1984.

Suzuki, David, and Peter Knudtson. Genethics: The Clash Between the New Genetics and Human Values. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Wheale, Peter R., and Ruth M. McNally. Genetic Engineering: Catastrophe or Utopia? New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
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