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Human-genome editing: ethics councils call to governments worldwide

Nuffield Council on Bioethics, London, UK.
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German Ethics Council, Berlin, Germany.

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National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences, Paris, France.

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As leaders of the national ethics committees of France and Germany, and of the UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics, we consider that the moral and societal issues raised by developments in heritable human-genome editing demand a level of public ethical reflection that current initiatives fail to meet.

In a joint statement, we call on governments and stakeholders worldwide to ensure that heritable genome editing is brought within the control of relevant public authorities (see go.nature.com/3ck1mc). Furthermore, no clinical applications should be considered until there has been broad societal debate about their acceptability and until research has reduced the considerable risks of clinical use to an acceptable level. Measures must be in place to ensure that these risks can be properly assessed and monitored.

Moreover, any ethically permissible application of human genome editing should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society. The large range of conceivable applications, as well as their implications for families, society and future generations, calls for cautious, responsible and transparent governance (see also go.nature.com/3c9fe1).

Nature 579, 29 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-00614-3

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