Genome editing: an ethical review

Nuffield Council on Bioethics
This report from the independent UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics takes a broad view of the practical and ethical significance of genome editing. It responds in part to the development of CRISPR/Cas9 and examines applications of genome editing well beyond the human. It divides its analysis into several different “fields of activity” in which CRISPR/Cas9 and genome editing more broadly have anticipated impacts. The Council makes recommendations for next steps that include key governance issues: taking stock of the values and interests of human genome editing to determine who should have a say in its future and a comparison of different visions of desirable gene-editing futures. With their later 2018 report, they followed up on their identification that human genome editing is an issue that should be addressed urgently. They specifically push back against a “science first, ethics second” model for the future of genome editing: “Deciding whether [human genome editing] should be broached at all is therefore both pressing and ethically highly complex, and therefore likely to be difficult to resolve…. It is also preferable for ethical reflection to shape the course taken rather than to appear as a final hurdle to ‘overcome’ when the research has already been accomplished, resources committed, and hopes and fears piqued.”