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Title:Handle with Care: The WHO Report on Human Genome Editing
Author(s):Cohen, I. Glenn; Sherkow, Jacob S.; Adashi, Eli Y.
genome editing
Abstract:On July 14, 2021, the Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing of the World Health Organization released a much-anticipated report comprised of two separate documents, Human Genome Editing: Recommendations and Human Genome Editing: A Framework for Governance. The committee also released a “position paper” on both. These documents—collectively referred to as the WHO Report on Human Genome Editing—complement a recently issued report by the International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing, a joint effort of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society from September 2020. Other significant reports were issued earlier by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the German Ethics Council, and a host of others. The WHO report, therefore, stands along-side a long list—more than five dozen—of other, similar re-ports about the ethics of human germline genome editing. But the WHO report also stands out in several respects. It is far more synoptic in scope than its predecessors, recognizing the multidimensional (and multijurisdictional) nature of governing human genome editing. It also contains recommendations for governance mechanisms that are far more nuanced than those in prior attempts. These include using intellectual property licensing as a private governance tool, an instrument largely unexplored in earlier reports. In addition, the WHO report is among the first to explicitly contemplate a world in which human germline genome editing is readily available, and it identifies a list of governance questions that regulators, developers, and users of the technology should consider in the technology’s implementation. Rather than adopting a mechanistic framework of color-coded permissibilities or prohibitions, the WHO report suggests that ethical assessments of human germline genome editing are deeply complex and surprisingly fragile, that the technology, rather than being accepted in some circumstances and banned in others, should be handled with care.
Issue Date:2022-04-27
Publisher:Hastings Center Report
Citation Info:I. Glenn Cohen, Jacob S. Sherkow & Eli Y. Adashi, Handle with Care: The WHO Report on Human Genome Editing, 52 Hastings Center Report 10 (2022)
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-04-28

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