Would human germline gene therapy be ethically acceptable?
If somatic therapy is in its infancy, germline therapy is not even “a twinkle in the parent’s eye”. The technique is being used in higher animals in a number of applications, but in humans, it is not currently being seriously considered. Indeed, following the Clothier committee report, it is illegal in the UK to do research in this area. Nonetheless, in the US, the National Institutes of Health wishes to raise public discussion on the issue, and a patent application for germline work on animals has included in its scope any potential human applications. In 1997, two discoveries may have brought the issue much closer that nayone thought, see our page Is Germline Therapy a Step Closer?. The Clothier committee reported “We share the view of others that there is at present insufficient knowledge to evaluate risks to future generations”. They recommended that germline therapy “should not yet be attempted” and this has now become law in Britain. This is a safe, pragmatic response, but it fal