Human germline genome editing: on the nature of our reasons to genome edit

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Ever since the publication of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, bioethicists have tended to distinguish between two different ways in which reproductive technologies may have implications for the welfare of future persons. Some interventions harm or benefit particular individuals: they are “person affecting.” Other interventions determine which individual, of a number of possible individuals, comes into existence: they are “identity affecting” and raise the famous “non-identity problem.” For the past several decades, bioethical debate has, for the most part, proceeded on the assumption that direct genetic modification of human embryos would be person affecting. In this paper, I argue that that genome editing is highly unlikely to be person affecting for the foreseeable future and, as a result, will neither benefit nor harm edited individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-15
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ethics
  • gene editing
  • genome editing
  • harm
  • human enhancement
  • nonidentity problem

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