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THEO 303 (Su '15) T10/11 - Genetic Technologies

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Hartmut Scherer

on 3 June 2015

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Transcript of THEO 303 (Su '15) T10/11 - Genetic Technologies

Sources and Image Credit
Partly adapted resources for this presentation from Feinberg and Feinberg,
Ethics for a Brave New World
, 253ff and Leon R. Kass, “Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Human Improvement”; accessed June 1, 2015; https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/background/kasspaper.html.
Alzheimer's disease
Genetic Technologies
- 5.1 million people are 65 and older
The Human Genome Project (HGP)
- started in January 1989
- finished project in 2003
- 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
- cannot be prevented, cured or slowed
- $226 Billion
Take a virtual tour
$1.1 Trillion
- goal: finding genetic links and predispositions
to disease
person may/may not get the disease
Genetic Counseling
- provides information for people who have, or may
be at risk for, genetic disorders
person will get the disease
genetic link:
- family history of a genetic condition or birth defect
- pregnant or planning to be pregnant after age 35
- already have a child with a genetic disorder
- two or more pregnancy losses or a baby who died
- screening tests that suggest a possible problem
Five basic goals of genetic counseling
1) understand the medical facts
3) dealing with the risk of recurrence
2) how does heredity contributes to the disorder
4) choose the course of action
5) make the best possible adjustment to the disorder
Inheriting a genetic disease
1) inheritance due to a dominant genetic trait
2) some diseases stem from recessive genes
3) some inherited diseases are called X-linked
or sex-linked
4) inherited disorder due to polygenic or
multifactoral inheritance
Assessment of genetic counseling
- distinguish between having and using information
- this information may be put to immoral uses
Ethical concerns and genetic counseling
- use of information attained
- directive or non-directive genetic counseling
- possibility of dysgenic consequences
- conflict between the affected person’s welfare and
that of future generations
Conclusion about genetic counseling
- genetic counseling is not immoral, though some
uses are and should be avoided
- (directive versus non-directive issue) a counselor
can withhold advice until asked
- counselor should never suggest an immoral action
- inform the patient, if information is relevant for
patient's physical well-being and future generations
- don't reveal information if not significant for
diagnosis or treatment nor other genetic relatives
Should a counselor inform a patient about a genetic disease for which there is no known cure?
- no known cure today does not mean no treatment
- our obligation is to help others avoid to endanger
themselves and others
Prenatal genetic testing
- ultrasound and amniocentesis (common practice)
- screening embryos prior to implantation for
genetic defects, also called preimplantation genetic
diagnosis (PGD; new practice)
- PGD fosters a vision of a "perfect society" that is
unfair to the handicapped
Gene therapy
corrected genes are added to the body ( somatic cell gene therapy)
gene addition:
genetic material is added embryos, egg cells or sperm cells
gene correction:
(germ line therapy)
Enhancements with biotechnology
- enhancement therapy uses to elevate already
existing traits
Looking at
The Challenges of Biotechnology
gene replacement:
- listen to an interview with C. Ben Mitchell, PhD
and John Kilner, PhD"
at https://cbhd.org/content/challenges-biotechnology
defective gene is surgically removed and replaced by the corrected gene
- become sensitized to ethical, legal, and social
- become more discriminating consumers
Individual Christians must . . .
- recover “focal practices” (Albert Borgmann)
- increase our ability to remain alert (wish)
- enhancing our long-term memory (wish)
These biotechnologies magnify human biological functions beyond species typical norms
Moral evaluation of biotechnology
- pursing “perfection” of body and of mind
- initial purpose: preventing and curing disease and
even reversing disabilities
- "dual use" aspects of most of these technologies
- technology extends, eliminates, retrieves, reverses
- difference between therapy and enhancement?
Concerns about the “beyond therapy” uses
1) Health issues of safety and bodily harm
- no biological agent used for purposes of self-
perfection will be entirely safe
- how can we evaluate perfected technologies
(not how safe)
2) Equality and justice
- seems to give an unfair advantage to the "haves"
- equality of access (central matter?)
3) Liberty: issues of freedom and coercion
- biotechnical power exercised by some people
upon other people
- peer pressure (problem of conformity)
- biotechnical enhancers for all
-> no more incentive for human excellence
What is frightening about our attempts to improve upon human nature, or even our own nature?
Guidelines for our moral evaluation
- the goodness of the ends (goals)
- the fitness of the means
- the attitude of mastery our own given nature
The attitude of mastery our own given nature
- knowing how something works, does not tell us
anything about the goodness of the goals
- failure to properly appreciate the "giftedness" of
acknowledging the "giftedness" of life
talents/powers are given
not everything is open to any use
leads to humility
The attitude of mastery
- the "giftedness" of things doesn't tell us what to
do with the gifts
- "giftedness" and being created in the image of God
should restrain us in our attempt to improve our
own nature
- how will the improvements on our own nature
affect our identity, our meaning and our values
The fitness of the means
How should the excellent ones become excellent?
- learning to deal with suffering is not possible
with pills that block the memory
- biomedical interventions act directly on the
human body and mind
- the subject plays no role at all
- we cannot really experience them as genuinely ours
The goodness of the ends (goals)
- no decay, no decline, no disabilities - yes?
- affects relations between generations
- a world increasingly dominated by anxiety over
health and the fear of death
- we want to stay alive as long as possible without
knowing how to live well
- the goodness of the end/goal
- the fitness of the means
- the attitude of mastery our own given nature
can guide us to make moral evaluations regarding the use of biotechnology
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