Bioethics of Gene Therapy and Genetic Enhancement

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Ethical issues concerning genetic enhancement and gene therapy

Ethical issues concerning genetic enhancement and gene therapy continue to be complex especially due to the impact of enhanced technology in the practice of medicine. Consequently, numerous bioethical pieces of literature have been exploring the topic at length. In the scale of genetic engineering, it is apparent that gene therapy and enhancements are entirely different in terms of their purpose and application (Earp et al. 12). Besides, genetic therapy is considered as acceptable while genetic enhancement is mostly viewed negatively.

Section 1

Therapeutic treatment/genetic treatments are measures taken that are considered as essential to the lifespan of an individual and are proven to promote health and lead to a better quality of life. For instance, doctors manipulating the DNA of a person to prevent him from developing Alzheimer's disease or altering an athlete's genes to prevent him from acquiring a terminal muscle disease. On the other hand, a genetic enhancement is the transfer of genes with the intention of modifying non-pathological traits (Giubilini and Sagar 243). Gene enhancement is mostly cosmetic and regarded as a frolicsome matter. Common examples of gene modification include improving muscular strength, choosing the sex of a baby, changing the level of intelligence, choosing an eye color, etc.

It is wise to state that there exists a moral dilemma in the adoption of gene enhancement. While people view genetic treatment as a way of returning the body to its normal state, genetic enhancement is seen as a means of manipulating the normal functioning of the body (Naldini 351). Consequently, since genetic enhancement does not involve life-altering situations, it is undesirable and considered unethical.

Section 2

Aristotle's Golden Mean is a desirable middle position between two extremes. It can adequately explain how best one can choose to reason when faced with a choice between the extremes, which in this case are the adoption of genetic enhancement or the adoption of genetic treatment (Kristjánsson 499). Aristotle argues that the mean is associated with moral virtue. Basically, he views it as a person's ability to reason and act the right way, and at the right time depending on the circumstances at play. In some situations or depending on our natural tendencies, the mean may be nearer to one extreme than to the other. However, it is a guide to our moral action. Aristotle goes ahead and states that it is imperative for one to embrace morally virtuousness if he intends to live in eudaimon, which is the highest state of being.

A person who applies Aristotle's Golden Mean will find a desirable point between the extreme of excess (genetic enhancement) and that of deficiency (genetic therapy). In this case, the mean will certainly be nearer to one extreme than to the other. Hence, as he approves the application of gene therapy because it helps to cure and prevent numerous diseases, he will also recommend genetic enhancement since it can benefit a person independently of a competitive advantage that it could confer. The person believes that a good act remains to be good whether it sets you ahead of others, brings you at level with others, or leaves you behind as long as it makes you better than you were. Therefore, it matters less what positional or relative effect an enhancement has as long as it is a benefit.


It is important for research into gene enhancement and gene therapy to be subject to proper ethical scrutiny so as to maintain the principles of bioethics, lessen suffering, safeguard public interest and balance competing interests, ensure accountability at all levels, and enable people to improve their lives.

Works Cited

Earp, Brian D., et al. "When is diminishment a form of enhancement? Rethinking the enhancement debate in biomedical ethics." Frontiers in systems neuroscience 8 (2014): 12.

Giubilini, Alberto, and Sagar Sanyal. "The ethics of human enhancement." Philosophy Compass 10.4 (2015): 233-243.

Kristjánsson, Kristján. "An Aristotelian virtue of gratitude." Topoi 34.2 (2015): 499-511.

Naldini, Luigi. "Gene therapy returns to center stage." Nature 526.7573 (2015): 351.

August 09, 2023

Health Life Science



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