Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a new technology that allows scientists to edit human DNA. CRISPR poses many ethical concerns regarding its abilities to permanently alter germlines, eradicate certain genetic conditions, and even enhance certain physical traits.
CRISPR is ethical under certain conditions
CRISPR is ethical only when used to treat diseases
CRISPR has gained popularity for its potential to cure negative genetic conditions, such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. Using CRISPR for these purposes does not pose ethical concerns. On the other hand, CRISPR should not be used for "human enhancement," such as using CRISPR to change a child's physical appearance.
CRISPR can be used on embryos and on adults. Using CRISPR on embryos will surely have significant impacts on that individual's life and there is no way that we can ask an embryo for consent. Thus, we should only use CRISPR on individuals who can consent.
CRISPR is ethical only when it is used on somatic cells
Many scientists and ethicists have voiced concern over genetically editing reproductive and germ cells. This is because the CRISPR edits would then be inheritable to the children of the individual who has been treated with CRISPR. Since we do not know the long-term effects of CRISPR, we should not allow the effects of CRISPR to be passed on to the next generation. Even if just one person who had their reproductive cells edited with CRISPR chose to reproduce, the entire human gene pool could be radically changed. That change may not be for the better, so it is unethical to allow CRISPR changes to be inherited.
The use of CRISPR raises ethical concerns because it has the potential to amplify racial inequality. There are also issues regarding consent, the possibility of unintended changes to the human genome, and the eradication of genetic conditions based on faulty justifications.
Using CRISPR could lead to certain genetic conditions being unjustifiably eradicated
Deciding that certain genetic conditions are "bad" while others are "good," particularly in cases like developmental disorders, is ethically problematic. If we allow scientists or physicians to dictate what sort of genetic conditions are allowed to exist, then this could lead to genetic editing that has more to do with promoting certain physical characteristics as opposed to just curing diseases.
CRISPR treatments are very expensive. If only wealthy families had access to using CRISPR, then the result would be that less wealthy families would be the only ones with children with genetic diseases.