CMDA's The Point

British Scientists to Genetically Modify Human Embryos

February 11, 2016
Photo: Pixabay

David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Excerpted from UK scientists given go-ahead to genetically modify human embryos,” CNN. February 1, 2016 — British scientists have been given the green light to genetically modify human embryos, for the first time in the nation's history. The landmark decision means scientists will now be allowed to alter the DNA of embryos, for research purposes only.

It remains illegal for these genetically altered embryos to be implanted in a woman. It is hoped the experiments will improve our understanding of the earliest stages of embryo development. The research, which was approved by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, will use excess embryos donated by couples who have had in vitro fertilization treatment.

The research, which will be led by Dr. Kathy Niakan, will take place at the Francis Crick Institute in London and has been hailed as a "triumph for common sense" by leading figures of the British science community. "This decision ... is a victory for level-headed regulation over moral panic," added Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust.

However, the research has also raised concerns that it could pave the way for "designer babies" -- going beyond health improvements and modifying everything from a child's eye color to intelligence.

It is not the first time a country has genetically modified human embryos. In April of last year, scientists in China became the first in the world to edit a gene that causes a blood disorder. That same month, the U.S. National Institutes of Health released a statement saying it would not fund gene editing technologies in human embryos.


Commentary

CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “The Crick Institute plans to use ‘spare’ embryos and CRISPR-Cas9 technology to identify and ultimately repair gene(s) defects that prevent implantation. They promise to destroy all the embryos by the 14 day blastocyst stage and to not implant them. They may also create human embryos for destructive research: ‘...it may be necessary to create IVF embryos specifically for the research.’ They maintain that there isn't a slippery slope to genetically modified babies, which begs the question of why do the research if you aren’t going to use it for treatment?

“If you can use this study protocol for genetic mutations preventing implantation, which aren’t a huge problem, don't diabetes and a host of much more common diseases deserve this same type of research? Plus you get a bonus. You solve the problem of all those frozen human beings in IVF labs going to waste!

“We cross another red line, while much of the world yawns! People don’t want to eat genetically modified crops, but they don’t have a problem genetically modifying human beings.”

About David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. David Stevens, author of Jesus, MD, Beyond Medicine and co-author of Leadership Proverbs and Servant Leadership and serves as CEO Emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a national organization of Christian healthcare professionals that seeks to change hearts in healthcare. Founded in 1931, CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas and domestic mission projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical and dental schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; holds marriage and family conferences; provides missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. At CMDA, Dr. Stevens has helped develop an evangelism training program that teaches thousands of healthcare professionals how to share their faith in a healthcare setting. He was a catalyst for starting the Global Missions Healthcare Conference, trains new healthcare missionaries three times a year and annually leads a summit for executives of mission organization doing healthcare ministry. He has also helped launch a nationwide network of community-based ministries that provide on-site discipleship, fellowship and outreach opportunities for local healthcare professionals and students. As a leading spokesman for Christian healthcare professionals, Dr. Stevens has conducted thousands of media interviews, including NBC's Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC-World Television, Newsweek, JAMA, USA Today, CNN Sunday Morning, CNN News Site and National Public Radio. He has also appeared on FOX Family Channel, PAX-Television, Tech TV, The Odyssey Channel, America's Health Network and many other national outlets. He has written many book chapters and magazine articles. Prior to becoming a Zondervan author, he wrote a regular health column for the Promise Keepers' New Man magazine and served on the editorial board of Christian Single magazine. Dr. Stevens is also heard as host of the CMDA Healthwise Public Service Announcements, which address general health and bioethical issues and airs on radio stations nationwide. CMDA members hear him as the host of the popular Christian Doctor’s Digest audio magazine, which has featured national leaders such as Luis Lugo, Jim Cymbala, Newt Gingrich, John Stonestreet and Kay Arthur. Prior to his service with CMDA, Dr. Stevens served as director of World Medical Mission. In Somalia, Dr. Stevens led an emergency medical mission that treated 45,000 suffering Somalis in the midst of war. In the Sudan, medical teams under his leadership treated more than 25,000 villagers to stop the spread of an epidemic. Dr. Stevens has seen firsthand how meeting the physical needs of patients provides opportunities to meet their spiritual needs—by introducing them to God’s love through a relationship with Jesus Christ. From 1981 to 1991, Dr. Stevens was a missionary doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya where he served as Medical Superintendent and then Exeuctive Officer. He helped to develop Tenwek from a bush hospital to one of the most outstanding mission facilities in the world. At Tenwek, he directed a $4 million development plan, secured the installation of an $850,000 hydroelectric plant, oversaw the start of a nursing school and doubled the size of the hospital. The community healthcare and development programs he designed at Tenwek are currently reaching more than one million Kenyans and serve as an example of what medical outreach in the developing world can accomplish. Dr. Stevens’ experiences provide rich illustrations for inspirational and educational presentations at seminars, conferences and churches. His topics include missions and evangelism, spiritual commitment and growth, bioethics and other medically and spiritually related subjects. Dr. Stevens holds degrees from Asbury University and is an AOA graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2002 and served on the boards of World Gospel Mission and Asbury University. He has regularly taught at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations' educational seminars for missionary physicians and dentists in Kenya, Malaysia and other forums. He is a Fellow of the Biotechnology Policy Council of the Wilberforce Forum and helped found the National Embryo Donation Center. Dr. Stevens and his wife Jody have a son, Jason, and two daughters, Jessica and Stacy, and nine grandchildren, all of who are involved in domestic or international healthcare ministry.

Leave a Comment