Human Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering refers to changes made to the genetic structure of living things. Human genetic engineering is permitted for two types of gene therapy: somatic cell therapy and the the creation of saviour siblings. Some people would like to take genetic engineering further and create designer babies.
Somatic Cell Therapy
This is a treatment that adds to, enhances or replaces a defective gene. It is a treatment for single genetic disorders such as X-SCID (X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency), which means that any infection is likely to prove fatal.
This technique is used to save the life of a child with a life-threatening disorder. In the UK, every treatment has to be approved by the HFEA. The treatment combines IVF with PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), which is a form of genetic screening. If a baby is born free from the disorder, its cord blood can be used to treat the sick sibling.
Christian Views on Human Genetic Engineering
* Somatic cell therapy and saviour siblings save life - uphold sanctity of life principle
* Act of compassion
* Responsibe use of God-given skills.
* Extension of Jesus' healing ministry.
* Can't put a price on the life of a child.
* "Playing God".
* Desire for designer babies is idolatry, i.e. worship of beauty intellect etc.
* IVF treatment breaches sanctity of life principle.
* Spending huge sums of money on very rare conditions is not good stewardship.
Buddhist Views on Human Genetic Engineering
* Intentions of gene therapy are good.
* Goes against First Precept if animals are used at the research stage.
* Serious kammic consequences as a result of any alteration of human nature.
Embryos created for IVF may be used for research purposes. Since 2001, recearch into stem-cell cloning has been allowed, together with embryonic research aimed at solving reproductive problems. There are strict Rules on this:
* All research has to be licensed and is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Embryonic research is permitted only if there is no alternative.
* The consent of both parents is needed.
* Research may be carried out only up to 14 days after an embryo was created, which is when the nervous system stars to form. After this embryos must be destroyed.
Christian Views on Embryonic Research
* Embryos are potential human so not breaking the commandment: do not kill.
* Leads to saving lives - act of compassion.
* Strict regulations prevent abuse
Buddhist Views on Embryonic Research
* Importance of right intention.
* Caring for the sick is a good intention.
* Ending suffering is a way of applying skilful means (combination of metta, karuna and wisdom).
* Embryo not fully embodied person so few kammic consequences.
* Life begins at conception.
* Embryo possesses all five skandhas (catagories that make up individual experience).
* Breach of the First Precept (not to cause harm to any living thing)
Cloning consists of creating a genetically identical copy of an organism. As a result of the successful cloning of dolly the sheep, the attention of some medical scientists turned to humans.
Reproductive cloning is aimed at creating human life.
Stem Cell (Therapeutic) Cloning
Stem cell (therapeutic) cloning is aimed at researching ways into curing a wide variety of diseases (e.g. motor neurone, Alzheimer's) and conditions (e.g. spinal injuries). It may only be carried out in institutes licenced by th Human Fertilisation and Embriology Act (HFEA) and the embryos must be destroyed at 14 days. It studies how :
* Embryonic stem cells (which are pluripotent) become specialised stem cells
* Cells become diseased
Christian Views on Embryonic Research
* Embryo only potential person so therapeutic cloning not tantamount to murder
* Therapeutic cloning intended to save lives - responsible use of God - given intelligence
* Therapeutic cloning is an act of compassion and mercy
* All oppose reproductive cloning as destroyiing the uniqueness of the individual
* Idolatrous to desire a copy of oneself