HGM2002 Poster Abstracts: 10. Ethics: Genomic and Stem Cell Research - Social-Cultural Economic and Religous Perspectives
POSTER NO: 526
Ethical, social and moral aspects of gene therapy
During the last decade gene therapy has been tried on more than 3000 patients worldwide for the treatment of single gene disorders, cancer and HIV. In spite of preliminary success, especially in 1990 for the treatment of a patient deficient for ADA gene, several problems have to be overcome. Especially the death in 1999 of a volunteer with OTC deficiency after a gene therapy protocol has raised concerns about the safety of the adenoviral vectors in gene therapy and potential under reporting of adverse events in other trials. There is no doubt that further technical improvements will be accomplished and increasing success in gene therapy will result. But as it is a potentially very powerfull technique, relatively new, with deep implications, it is very important to regulate it's application. As there are still uncertainties about clinical risks and the long term effects of gene therapy it is important to avoid germ line gene therapy to preserve the rights, the choices and the health of future generations. Somatic gene therapy can be considered as a special case of medical treatment and could be applied if the necessity, the relative efficiency, the practicality and the respect of the human rights aspects has been reviewed and approved by a multidisciplinary ethical committee composed of scientists from the medical community, lawyers, professors, educators, philosophers, religious and politicians. With such a multidisciplinary committee the society's perception about the application of this new technology could be taken into account and if the society is not prepared to accept what the experts or the governments say to be safe, then it has to be avoided. Abusive application of these methods for self improvement like increasing intelligence, memory or height or changing the skin's colour should be avoided because it may lead to future social, racial and economical discriminations. Although these characteristics are multifactorial phenomena, but medical and scientific progress usually evolve much more rapidly than do moral debates and this kind of question should be adressed seriously. Laboratory animal abuses should also be avoided: that is even for animal models each experimental protocol should be approved and in cases that preexisting results could be extrapolated, there would be no need for excessive studies on animals (especially primates).
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