‘Serious’ factor—a relevant starting point for further debate: a response

Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (2):153-155 (2020)
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Abstract

In this reply, we wish to defend our original position and address several of the points raised by two excellent responses. The first response questions the relevance of the notion of ‘serious’ within the context of human germline genome modification. We argue that the ‘serious’ factor is relevant and that there is a need for medical and social lenses to delineate the limits of acceptability and initial permissible applications of HGGM. In this way, ‘serious’ acts as a starting point for further discussions and debates on the acceptability of the potential clinical translation of HGGM. Therefore, there is a pressing need to clarify its scope, from a regulatory perspective, so as to prevent individuals from using HGGM for non-therapeutic or enhancement purposes. The second response criticizes the narrow interpretation of the objectivist approach and the apparent bias towards material innovations when discussing the right to benefit from scientific advancements. As an in-depth discussion of the objectivist and constructivist approaches was beyond the scope of our original paper, we chose to focus on one specific objectivist account, one which focuses on biological and scientific facts. We agree, however, with the critique that material innovations should not be the sole focus of the right to benefit from scientific advancements, which also incorporates freedom of scientific research and access to scientific knowledge scientific freedom and knowledge, including the influence of these on ethical thinking and cultures.

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