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Wondergenes

Genetic Enhancement and the Future of Society

Maxwell J. Mehlman

Publication Year: 2003

Wondergenes not only imagines a future world in which genetic enhancement is the norm, but asserts that this future has already begun. Genetically engineered substances are already in use by athletes, in vitro fertilization already provides the primitive means by which parents can "select" an embryo, and the ability to create new forms of genetically engineered human beings is not far off. What happens when gene therapy becomes gene enhancement? Who will benefit and who might be left behind? What are the costs to our values and beliefs, and to the future of our society? To answer these questions, Maxwell J. Mehlman provides an overview of the scientific advances that have led to the present state of genetic enhancement and explains how these advances will be used in the future to redefine what we think of as a normal human being. He explores the ethical dilemmas already facing researchers and medical practitioners, and the dilemmas we will all be expected to face. In his forecast of the dangers inherent in this technology, he is particularly concerned with the emergence of a "genobility" made up of those able to afford increasingly expensive enhancement.

Wondergenes is a serious, accessible introduction to the social and personal implications of genetic engineering. Mehlman weighs the social and economic costs of the many proposals to regulate or limit genetic engineering and provides six concrete policy recommendations -- from professional licensing to a ban on germ-line enhancement -- that propose to make the future of genetic enhancement more equitable and safe.

Published by: Indiana University Press

WONDERGENES

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p. i-i

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-v

Contents

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pp. vi-vii

Acknowledgments

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p. ix-ix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

The call comes into the Ski Patrol at dusk. "Family reports their eleven-year-old son didn't show up at the end of the day. His friends say he went out of bounds on his snowboard, heading over toward Crystal Cliffs."...

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1 An Announcement at the White House

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pp. 6-10

"Nearly two centuries ago, in this room, on this floor, Thomas Jefferson and a trusted aide spread out a magnificent map-a map Jefferson had long prayed he would get to see in his lifetime. The aide was Meriwether Lewis and the map was the product of his courageous expedition across the American frontier, all the way to the Pacific. It was a map that defined the contours ...

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2 Scientific Foundations

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pp. 11-17

In the nuclei of the cells in our body are chromosomes. These are long strands of a molecule called DNA (short for deoxyribonucleic acid), wound up tightly to fit in the confined space of the nucleus. Most normal cell nuclei contain two sets of these chromosomes, one set inherited...

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3 Four Revolutions

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pp. 18-51

The unraveling of the mystery of the genome has led to a number of developments with profound implications for society. To understand the prospects for genetic enhancement, it is first necessary to understand these developments. THE REVOLUTION IN FORENSIC GENETICS One of the first applications of new genetic knowledge to have a major impact on society was the use of DNA to identify people. This has given rise to the new field of forensic genetics. While this is ...

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4 The Fifth Revolution

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pp. 52-65

When the human genome is completely unraveled, we will discover the genes not just for diseases or anti-social behaviors, but those that interact with the environment to produce all heritable physical and mental characteristics. Once the proteins associated with these characteristics are identified, we will be able to create ...

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5 Safety and Effectiveness

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pp. 66-82

As we saw in the previous chapter, genetic enhancement potentially could produce major changes in human abilities and characteristics. Yet some skeptics, we know, disagree. For them, all this talk about genetic enhancement is just hype. Enhancement simply ...

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6 Autonomy

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pp. 83-94

Among the fundamental tenets of modern biomedical ethics, none is more basic than the right of self-determination. Physicians must obtain their patients' permission before proceeding to treat them, and acquiesce to a refusal even if it means the patient's death. Despite its centrality, self-determination in medical decision ...

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7 Authenticity

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pp. 95-100

If individuals knowingly and voluntarily agreed to be genetically enhanced, or if the benefits so clearly outweighed the risks that we permitted children and others to be enhanced despite their inability to consent, we would face the question of how to value their accomplishments. Should a race won by a genetically enhanced athlete count the same as a race won by dint of years of training...

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8 Access

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pp. 101-107

Among the fundamental tenets of modern biomedical ethics, none is more basic than the right of self-determination. Physicians must obtain their patients' permission before proceeding to treat them, and acquiesce to a refusal even if it means the patient's death. Despite its centrality, self-determination in medical decision ...

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9 Inequality and Unfairness

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pp. 108-120

Since genetic enhancements will not be available to everyone, those who can afford to purchase them with private funds will gain abilities that others can attain only with a great deal of time and hard work, or, more likely, not at all. What happens when the enhanced, with their superior talents, interact with the unenhanced? This could occur in all sorts of situations: personal relationships; professional relationships ...

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10 Hubris

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pp. 121-125

The prospect of powerful genetic enhancement technologies available only to the well-to-do renders the future of society exceedingly bleak. Great rewards will go to those who can afford the most extensive enhancements, rather than to those who earn by determination and hard work. Under relentless

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11 Solutions

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pp. 126-154

The foregoing chapters describe a future in which genetic enhancement exacerbates the natural disparities between individuals, leading to the creation of a genetic aristocracy that invalidates the belief in equality of opportunity. Germ line enhancement cements the privileged status of the genobility. Democracy is a thing of the past. Society succumbs to tyranny or chaos as the genobility ...

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12 Better Solutions

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pp. 155-191

A complete embargo on genetic enhancement is as impractical as it is unenforceable. Researchers will perfect enhancement technologies even if they are barred from receiving federal funds for doing so. Perhaps not as quickly, but eventually. People will illegally enhance themselves and their children. Not everyone, perhaps, and not as many as if enhancements were freely available to...

Spotting Enhancement

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pp. 192-196

Conclusion

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pp. 197-200

Notes

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pp. 201-216

Index, About the Author

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pp. 217-227

MEDICAL ETHICS SERIES

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p. 228-228


E-ISBN-13: 9780253111050
E-ISBN-10: 0253111056
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253342744

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 2 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Medical Ethics