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Ethical and legal aspects of medical gene editing: towards a new eugenics
1  Chair in Law and the Human Genome R.G., Department of Public Law, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU (Leioa, Spain, 48940)


Eugenics has historically been linked, by its coercive and discriminatory use, to practices of unholy remembrance for humanity. In this sense, it is enough to recall the painful bloodshed committed by the German National Socialist regime. However, advances in biotechnology, and more specifically in the field of genetic engineering, represented by techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9, have reopened an intense ethical and legal debate. This procedure can contribute to the cure and treatment of diseases even before they appear, unlike other existing techniques, in an effective, seemingly harmless and easy way, although it can sometimes entail the assumption of certain risks, as well as the modification of the germ line and, in short, of the human genome itself. In the opinion of some authors, this may mean a return to eugenics. However, in this article, I will try to differentiate exactly what differentiates the new eugenics from the classical trend, explaining the risks and benefits involved and presenting integrative conclusions for the legal fit of new health technologies.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9 / Eugenics / Gene editing / New biotechnologies / Gene therapy