CRISPR, a Crossroads in Genetic Intervention: Pitting the Right to Health against the Right to Disability

Benston, Shawna

Reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs), including gene-editing technology, are being discovered and refined at an exponential pace. One gene-editing innovation that demands our swift attention is CRISPR/Cas9, a system of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and a protein called Cas9. As CRISPR and other RGTs continue being developed, we must remain vigilant concerning the potential implications of genetic-engineering technology on our interpersonal and legal relationships. In the face of increasingly numerous and refined RGTs, we must maintain the rights of everyone: potential parents, prospective children, and individuals (both living and prospective) with disabilities. For those who wish to become parents, how should procreation be regulated in light of developing RGTs, especially gene-editing technology? What duties do parents owe their children, and when does such a duty attach? What role should RGTs play in parents’ fulfillment of their duties to their children? This article will contextualize the right to health and what I will term the “right to disability” in the CRISPR/Cas9 landscape. The article will then explore these rights in reference to the “subjunctive-threshold” interpretation of harm. Finally, I will argue that RGTs must be thoughtfully regulated, with such regulations taking into account the opinions of geneticists, bioethicists, and lay people concerning both the right to health and the right to disability.


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June 20, 2017