Gene Therapy—Cure or Challenge?
This chapter addresses concerns regarding gene therapy. It has been suggested that we are bigger than our genetic inheritance — that genes may predict some, but not all, of what we are. Yet contemporary obsession with genes and what they can tell us often leads to what the British Medical Association has called an ‘incorrigibly reductionist’ view of what it is to be human. Concern about gene therapy — the capacity to change the mysterious make-up of individuals — is exacerbated by our growing obsession with ourselves as a conglomerate of genetic markers. Even if somatic therapy is little different from conventional therapy, any interference in genetic inheritance is often greeted with considerable public anxiety. Understanding that the issues are bigger than our own fascination with our genes may presage the development of an informed and sophisticated set of principles with which to address gene therapy. And these we need. Whether it is cloning or genetic enhancement — the drive to improve characteristics rather than seeking to prevent or cure disease — we will be unable rationally to consider the rightness or wrongness of progress without them.
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