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Designer babies could be approved in future, says medical ethics panel

1:27 pm, 17th July 2018

Scientists in the Nuffield Council on Bioethics group said the law which bans genetic editing shouldn’t be altered at the moment, although a change couldn’t be ruled out in the future.

Gene editing has been championed as a potential medical silver-bullet allowing parents to prevent genetic diseases being inherited by their children.

It is currently illegal in the UK to alter the DNA of a human embryo before it is transferred to the womb via IVF treatment.

However, this could be “morally permissible” in the future, for example in the case of parents who want to remove an inherited disease from their child, or a predisposition to particular cancers.

“There is still uncertainty over the sorts of things genome editing might be able to achieve, or how widely its use might spread,” the council stated.

However, Professor Karen Yeung, of Birmingham University, who chaired the panel, said: “We have concluded that the potential use of genome editing to influence the characteristics of future generations is not unacceptable in itself.”

As an independent body examining the ethical questions posed by new medical technologies, the council urged similar institutions in Europe, the US, and China to engage in the debate.

Genetic editing technologies could introduce a “radical new approach to reproductive choices”, said the council in its report, which could then have significant impacts on society.

“There must be action now to support public debate and to put in place appropriate governance,” the council added.