Would you edit your children's genes?
It was hard to believe I was reading news, not fiction. Nature.com's article posed the question: Should you edit your children’s genes?
When I think back on my life, I wouldn't change a thing. Truly - good and bad - it makes me who I am. But my sister may answer differently. At 34, she's already had three major surgeries. And as she is potentially on the cusp of another, knowing her, she'd likely say something to the effect, "Hell yes, I'd edit out my defective genes!"
So if given the opportunity, perhaps she'd be able to delete the degenerative scoliosis gene and clear up that hole in her heart. Now that I'm thinking about it, if such a gene exists, it's tempting to me to obliterate my chronic daily migraines. Hmmm. I know there's a gene - ACTN3 (I wrote about it in Nation of Enemies) that makes people essentially have greater physical power and athletic abilities, strengthening legs among other things. I've always been unathletic...it's tempting to want to change such a trait. But all of it's tempting, and that's the problem. Should we be able to choose? I love making lists and this seems like a good time for one: (caveat - I'm inventing things I assume could be modified by gene editing in the future)
Good Arguments for Gene Editing:
Degenerative diseases (a seemingly endless list)
Bad Arguments for Gene Editing:
Athletic inability (ie. the fact I can't throw a ball)
Skin elasticity (if that's a gene?)
Cosmetic choices (again, a seemingly endless list)
Plenty of people would opt-in to many of these. And many wouldn't. But if you can choose to do one...why not do the other? It would only take a generation or two to slide off that slippery slope. To forget that people aren't perfect, physically and mentally. But even with these changes, there is no perfection as I think we all know. I understand the desire to eliminate disease, the pain and suffering caused when bodies fail us.
Insurance companies are monitoring us more now. They - and our employers - incentivize us if we're healthy. And as we age, we're penalized by rising insurance costs. Crazy, considering that yes, we're aging, and THIS is why we've been paying health insurance our whole lives. And regardless of our age, it goes without saying that we all WANT to be healthy. We're increasingly pushing ourselves with apps and devices like fitbits that help us monitor our movements and to squeeze in a ten-minute exercise session in our busy day. These can certainly be good tools to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. What's not good is when we are required to or asked to share this information to "help" our doctors/insurance companies monitor our care. That's where things are headed.
Food for thought. Recently a journalist asked a young woman born blind if she would erase her blindness, if it had been an option, if she wished she were born with sight. In short, she didn't. She enjoys seeing the world as she sees it. It's what she knows. It's still beautiful, it's still life. It's just not perfect.