gmostoryapa (1).doc - 1 THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE AND THE...

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THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE AND THE ETHICS OF GENETIC MANIPULATION OF HUMAN OFFSPRING ( by Stan Dundon) Throwing Caution to the Winds The “precautionary principle” is common-sense “look before you leap.” Some of the “best ethicists money can buy” cook up reasons why the costs of “looking first” are too high, there is no scientific reason for looking, this is not really a leap at all, etc.. So the principle had to be decorated with clarifications: The goal must be of some significant value and the undesired known side effects must be minimal. If uncertain side effects are, given current scientific knowledge, plausible, irreversible and extremely harmful, one cannot proceed to act without first removing the plausibility to the satisfaction of the relevant scientific community. If an agent insists on a right to act because a monstrous side effect is merely plausible, that agent has placed him/herself outside the moral community of mankind. This is happening in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Abandonment of Science in Embryo Creation In two back-to-back day-long seminars in February of 2004 attendees at Stanford University Law School got a look at what the future may hold for the human race as a gift of techno-fertility cum eugenic screening. The agents call it Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). I call it Franken-sex. 1 From an ethicist who is interested in fairness in judgment, such name-calling would seem improper. I feel justified in this case because the in-vitro fertilization clinics which are the source of essentially all the embryos which are transferred or await either death or transfer are so lacking in the safeguards, both moral and intellectual, of normal innovative medical procedures that they resemble more the lab of Shelley’s hapless doctor than anything we are accustomed to calling science. Although inspired by noble ideals, including paradoxically a “reduction” in numbers of [later-term] abortions, and proclaiming they would not ever, or hardly ever, succumb to sex-selection discard of female embryos, the practitioners admit that they are not carrying out any research on the long term effects of their procedures on the children gestated successfully with their intervention, where successfully means “born without macroscopically evident defects.” Supported by patient fees of $12,500 to $16,000 per cycle and considerable academic talent and institutional prestige, these shiny laboratories and medical rooms are legally unregulated once the baby is born and, while sometimes overseen by institutional review boards (IRBs), these boards must stare astonishingly at themselves and the work they deal with: No records are being kept by which to judge the safety for the offspring, and for their descendants and hence for the whole human race insofar as deleterious impacts on the human germline become the common possession of the human race. And, given that the cells of the embryo at this stage are totipotent there is no a priori argument for why deleterious impacts might not enter the germline.
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