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Fetal DNA modification, what is it? Fetal DNA Modification is a type of germ line gene therapy, but it is only performed on fetuses. This is because of their abnormalities of their gene makeup that could cause hereditary disease. If a genetic disease is found during the test of the amniotic fluid, then Fetal DNA therapy could be an excellent choice. Since the human genome project is nearly completed there is now the knowledge of where each gene in the human body is located and what its use is.
With this knowledge Scientists can take viruses and change their genetic makeup to be able to fix the abnormalities that the growing fetuses have due to their genes. Due to evolution viruses have evolved to be able to penetrate the cell membranes and take over their reproductive capabilities of a cell. In doing so the cell reads the viruses genetic coding rather then its own and replicates with the viruses DNA. If we can successfully inject virus DNA that has its genes sequence changed so what was abnormal with the original fetus is now fixed in the viruses genetic code. We would then be able to change the fetuses genetic makeup and the child to be born would no longer have the hereditary disease, or the genes to pass it on to its offspring.
The possible problems with this treatment is that we could create mentally or physically retard babies in trying to change their genes because we do not know a lot about the procedure. Another problem is many people think that it is playing god, and that it is disturbing evolution that has occurred for the betterment of man over many thousands of years. The way you need to evaluate biotechnology to determine if it is ethical is make sure it meets 4 credentials. They are Autonomy, which is, if you have the choice to do it or not.
The second is non maleficence which is saying it isnt ethical if it risks harming or is going to harm someone, the third is beneficence which questions if it going to help many in the future and will the number of people it helps be much greater then what it hurts. This is different then non maleficence, although it may not sound that different. The difference is non maleficence looks at it in a negative light, but in beneficence it is looked at positive so if it is over all positive it meets that third credential. The fourth and final credential that must be met for a part of biotechnology to be ethical according to Kormondy is Justice. Justice is saying that the treatment should be accessible to everyone not just the upper class. It should be available to all types of people color, money, religion and things of that nature should not play a role on whether or not the person merits the treatment.
The treatment should be available to everyone. The first class that new procedures or ideas have to meet to be ethical is Autonomy. Being able to make a choice given correct information. Fetal DNA modification would meet this criteria because it is nothing that is forced upon you. You look at the information and look at the choices and then you can make a decision that best suits you. For example if you are pregnant and after the testing of the amniotic fluid it is discovered your baby is going to have a genetic disease such as Cystic Fibrosis.
You find out that the baby will not likely live past twenty-one. The doctors then present you with a choice, it is either to deliver the baby and let him / her live a short life. Your other option is to try to modify his DNA by injecting viruses with different DNA into the fetus and when they take over the reproduction of his cells the gene that is turned on for the disease will now be deactivated. This could result in the baby being born without the disease Cystic Fibrosis ever affecting him but it could also mean the baby could suffer severe mental and physical retardation. This demonstrates autonomy and fetal DNA modification. It presents you with a choice that you are fully informed about and you have to decide what would be better for your baby.
My topic fetal DNA modification does fit these credentials of being ethical. The second credential that it needs to meet is non maleficence. This is that it will not risk hurting anyone. This is one thing that fetal DNA modification might not meet, although it is a choice it can hurt the fetus. So, if there were a risk then it would not fit into non maleficence. For instance if the procedure is performed and we dont know that multiple genes could affect a disease, and the viruses DNA was not fixed for the gene then sever mutations could occur to both the genetic structure and it also risks retardation.
The possibility is if the viruses with the correct genetic structure is injected the developing immune system of the fetus could reject it and scientists are not sure about what this could do to the developing fetus. Due to these risks fetal DNA modification would not meet the ethical credentials of non maleficence. The third credential that something needs to meet for it to be ethical is beneficence, which is that its overall a positive procedure. Fetal DNA modification does meet beneficence. This is because although it may have a few negative affects on the first generation it is performed to, but that is only because the procedure has not been perfected yet. Fetal DNA modification may not be perfected yet but if it performed to some it will help the doctors and scientists learn more about it.
This will not only help the originally engineered child. It will also help the original childs baby because he will be getting better DNA from his parents. Another reason this procedure will help the baby is because if it is discovered that he has a disease the treatment for that hereditary disease will be very refined and so it will be easily performed on him with virtually no risks. Fetal DNA modification does meet the credentials of the third way to evaluate if a procedure is ethical, beneficence. It may harm a few but in doing so it will help many more. Looking at it like beneficence requires, in a positive light you realize this is a good procedure.
The fourth and final credential that something must meet to be ethical is Justice. Which is basically saying that it has to be available for everyone equally. Fetal DNA modification does not meet this credential because for a treatment it can cost 60, 000 dollars. Since insurance companies see this as a procedure that is unnecessary they will not pay for any of it.
They consider fetal DNA modification equal to something like plastic surgery. Fetal DNA modification does not meet the credentials of Justice. It is not available for many just the rich and upper class who have 60, 000 dollars somewhere. My topic fetal DNA modification is a great advance in scientific knowledge and disease treatment but it also has its problems. Although it does have potential to cure so many it also has its drawbacks.
One great things about fetal DNA modification is if you refine the treatment it will be able to save thousands if not millions of lives each year. For instance, recently scientists found the gene that causes 75 % of Cystic Fibrosis cases and they also developed a way to implant a virus into a fetus and have it change the genetic coding so that the gene to cause Cystic Fibrosis is no longer turned on. Scientists have also discovered with help of the human genome project how to do that with dwarfism, Huntington's disease and some forms of colon and breast cancer. There are many problems with fetal DNA modification though; the main argument of many religious people is that changing the gene sequence is playing god and that is not something that needs to be done. Another thing that goes along with this is that many religious people believe that god takes you when its your time and that playing with that could create over population and chaos.
Another problem many have is will science know when to draw the line if fetal DNA modification is legal. The question is do you just use it to change hereditary diseases, or should you screen every fetus and would they be aborted even if the disease wont affect the but if they carry the gene so that future generations could contract it. Also if we have the treatments perfected what if someone wants only to enhance their childs height of intelligence. As of now we cannot effectively increase someones intelligence because intelligence is a poly-genetic trait. Eventually if we dont stop developing genetic engineering it will surpass its intended uses of just for the cure of deadly hereditary diseases it will become something used on every fetus just to help them get ahead in the world.
Many scientists realize that there could be great problems with something like this because in the human genome project that set aside 5 % of their budget to study the ethical portions of the research. Many experts also think we should just put a hold on our technology and let the ethics catch up. As one genetic counselor Bea Leopold said when asked of genetic screening, The technology is just so far ahead of the ethics. Bibliography:
Free research essays on topics related to: genetic makeup, amniotic fluid, human genome project, cystic fibrosis, hereditary diseases
Research essay sample on Human Genome Project Cystic Fibrosis