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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 2017

Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco
Pages 43-49
DOI: 10.5840/ncbq20171715

Healthier than Healthy
The Moral Case for Therapeutic Enhancement

How should we morally evaluate protocols to edit the human genome? In this essay, the author argues that the therapy–enhancement distinction commonly used in debates over genetic engineering is not a robust one. Using the example of lipid-lowering pharmacological interventions, he argues that a strong case can be made for the morality of therapeutic enhancements that blur the distinction between therapy and enhancement. He proposes, therefore, that the therapy–enhancement distinction should be replaced by a therapy–nontherapy distinction that acknowledges that some beneficial and morally acceptable therapies are enhancements. However, the benefits–burdens distinction should also be deployed, as it commonly is with other technologies that affect the human person, alongside the therapy–nontherapy distinction, to judge whether a particular technological intervention to edit an individual’s genome should be permitted or not. Gene editing to make patients healthier than healthy should be allowed.