The Moral Questions of CRISPR

The ability to edit human genes in order to prevent people from being born with debilitating diseases is certainly an exciting prospect. As the Specter article writes, with CRISPR technology comes the possibility of treating Tay-Sachs by editing the genes of one of the parent’s contributions, such as the father’s sperm, and thereby saving lives (Specter, p. 5). The use of CRISPR to elevate the lives of people by eliminating genetic diseases before they are born is an incredible technology, and in cases such as Tay-Sachs are a definite root positive, but it also opens up moral questions on what should and should not be “fixed” via gene editing. If the possibility arises, is it morally acceptable to treat autism, for example. Would minor physical differences, like having webbed toes, also be considered a viable thing to treat with CRISPR, and if so, where is the divide between what physical attributes are okay to change and what should remain the same? These major moral questions stand as the frightening aspect of editing the physical conditions of unborn children.


As of right now, I think it’s too soon to begin gene editing on humans. While I would support the editing of diseases like Tay-Sachs in the foreseeable future, this comes with the caveat of certainty that there will not be unforeseen side-effects which will lead to negative consequences on a personal and/or societal level. If CRISPR technology was tested throughout generations of animals to see how it impacts them, and the results showed only the desired effects and no resulting issues, then I would be comfortable with the use of gene editing for explicitly harmful diseases.