Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode.
Such systematic efforts raise thorny questions for bioethicists. Some worry that pushes to eliminate disabilities devalue the lives of those who already have them. The cost and accessibility of the procedure raises concerns about genetic traits further widening the divide between rich and poor people. Then there are concerns about the push to select for non-disease-related traits, such as intelligence or athletic ability. The ever-present spectre of eugenics lurks in the shadows. But in China, although these concerns are considered, most thoughts are focused on the benefits of the procedures.