Joint Statement of Ethics Councils from France, Germany and the United Kingdom on the Ethics of Human Germline Intervention

National Advisory Committee on Ethics in Life Sciences and Health, France
German Ethics Council
Nuffield Council on Bioethics
The ethics councils of three major European nations—France, Germany, and the UK—jointly authored this statement on the ethics of human germline genome editing. The statement identifies momentum toward allowing the clinical use of heritable genome editing but argues that this use would require “a level of public ethical reflection that is not yet met by current initiatives.” Accordingly, the three ethics bodies call for broad societal debate and deliberation and argue that this deliberation must focus more on ethical questions and principles. They highlight ethical principles suggested by each contributing body: solidarity and social justice (the UK’s Nuffield Council); human dignity, protection of life and integrity, freedom, naturalness, and responsibility (Germany’s Deutscher Ethikrat); and non-maleficence and beneficence (both Deutscher Ethikrat and France’s Comité Consultatif National d’Éthique). Though they highlight the importance of such deliberation before they would deem clinical applications acceptable, he organizations also take positions on such uses. They note that while none of the councils considers the clinical use of heritable genome editing categorically impermissible, each of them would draw the line differently. France’s ethics council, for example, would categorically prohibit applications for enhancement purposes, while Germany’s and the UK’s councils would prefer to make assessments on a case-by-case basis.