Overcoming vulnerability by editing the germline?

Reservations about genetic engineering as a solution to social challenges





vulnerability, germline genome editing, Transhumanism, Human Enhancement, disability


The concept of vulnerability has become widely acknowledged as a fundamental concept for medical ethics and research ethics, yet rarely considered with respect to ethical assessments of human germline genome editing. A first aim of this paper is to make vulnerability ethics considerations fruitful for issues related to these technical innovations. The possibility of altering the genome promises to overcome forms of vulnerability inherently connected to our existence as physical beings and would hence allow to increase the resilience of human nature or even to move evolution forward by equipping people with new character traits and enhanced capabilities. I suggest a more fine-grained distinction of various applications purposes than the dichotomy of therapeutic and enhancement. I support the rejection of most application purposes as ‘therapeutic’ and claim that framing them as ‘therapeutic’ in the context of the current discursive constellation runs the risk of accentuating existing vulnerabilities. With respect to intergenerational responsibilities, I reject the view that editing the germline necessarily leads to corrupt intergenerational relations based on which it must be categorically excluded. I conclude that it is nevertheless important to take a very close look at the challenges that arise, especially from a vulnerability perspective, before irreversible facts are created overhastily.


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How to Cite

Braunschweig, M. (2024) “Overcoming vulnerability by editing the germline? : Reservations about genetic engineering as a solution to social challenges ”, De Ethica, 8(1), pp. 59–81. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.248159.