202 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 37:2 2017]
“membership” entitling someone to legal rights and protections.168 This view implicitly assumes
that the totality of human DNA is the source of human essence. Therefore, under this theory, the
genetically modified children’s biological legacy, as well as their entitlement to human rights and
legal protections would be jeopardized by germline genetic modifications.169 The solution,
according to these authors, is to ban the technology. 170
This absolute ban approach ignores the aforementioned reality of a society increasingly
accepting of “enhancement.”171 Also, this position undermines the non-enhancement benefits that
genetic engineering technologies could bring.172 As mentioned above, CRISPR for example, has
shown promise in the treatment of diseases.173 There is no justification to completely ban the
application of genetic engineering technologies to the extent that they can be used to edit serious
diseases out of the genomes of future generations of affected families. For example, genetic
engineering could be used in families carrying the genes responsible for Huntington’s disease,174
or a type of cancer which is of genetic origin and can be inherited,175 who want to have a child free
of the disease. This application would prevent the suffering of children who would otherwise be
born with these genes, as well as that of their families.
This application of the technology would also be beneficial to society at large. If genetic
engineering technologies are used, for example, to prevent children from inheriting genes
responsible for certain cancers, the economic impact would be considerable; the current cost of
cancer in the United States’ economy is over $88 billion dollars.176 Therefore, the eradication of
inheritable diseases from the human germline through genetic engineering would have significant
positive personal, social and economic consequences. The potential benefits are too great to close
the door to the technology.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Transhumanist James Hughes, replies that a
homo-centric theory of law dependent exclusively on Homo sapiens’ DNA, misses the purpose of
modern democratic systems, which are founded on notions of “personhood” instead of
“humanness” in the pure genetic sense.177 In his book, Citizen Cyborg, Hughes explains the need
to develop what he calls a “cyborg citizenship” which would be based on “personhood” to
168 Annas, Andrews & Isasi, supra note 13, at 152-53. In support of this argument, the authors quote a statement by
Daniel Lev of Human Rights Watch: “Whatever else may separate them, human beings belong to a single biological
species, the simplest and most fundamental commonality before which the significance of human differences
quickly fades. We are all capable, in exactly the same ways, of feeling pain, hunger, and a hundred kinds of
deprivation. The idea of universal human rights shares the recognition of one common humanity…” Id.
170 Id. at 154.
171 See supra notes 96-117 and accompanying text.
172 See Begley, supra note 12; Fan, supra note 76.
173 See Begley, supra note 12; Reardon supra note 11.
174 “Huntington’s disease is an inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells
in the brain.” Diseases and Conditions: Huntington’s Disease, MAYO CLINIC, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-
conditions/huntingtons-disease/basics/definition/con-20030685. Huntington’s disease is fatal, and due to its nature,
researchers have reservations about revealing positive test results, due to the possibility that the person may commit
suicide. See LORI B. ANDREWS, MAXWELL J. MEHLMAN & MARK A. ROTHSTEIN, GENETICS: ETHICS, LAW AND
POLICY 22, 106 (West 2010).
175 Family Cancer Syndromes, AM. CANCER SOC’Y,
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/geneticsandcancer/heredity-and-cancer (last visited May 12, 2017).
176 Economic Impact of Cancer, AM. CANCER SOC’Y, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/economic-impact-of-cancer (last visited May 12, 2017).
177 JAMES HUGHES, CITIZEN CYBORG 78-79 (Westview Press 2004).