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engineering technologies. For example, a new technology called CRISPR9 has revolutionized the
field of genetic engineering.10 CRISPR could potentially lead to the eventual cure of conditions
ranging from cancer11 to sickle-cell disease12 and is therefore promising in its potential biomedical
applications. Nevertheless, despite the fact that novel genetic engineering technologies such as
CRISPR may bring significant benefits to society, they also present serious concerns. Legal
scholars13 and scientists14 fear that such technologies will be used for non-medical purposes,
including the creation of “designer babies”—genetically enhanced children with specific traits
selected by their parents.15
Designer children would give rise to a great number of legal and ethical issues. Amongst
these issues is the uncertainty as to whether, for legal purposes, these children would be considered
“persons.” Bioethicist Francis Fukuyama expressed this concern best when he stated: “what rights
will [the] enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left
behind?”16 “Personhood” in American jurisprudence is a largely undefined notion,17 and as such,
there is no guarantee that genetically enhanced children would be automatically entitled to legal
personhood status. Moreover, in light of the rapid development of novel genetic technologies,
Fukuyama’s question is more relevant and more pressing now than ever before in history.
Human enhancement through genetic engineering has been thoroughly debated, and the
literature on the topic is extensive.18 Some proponents, known as Transhumanists,19 argue that it
is human nature to strive for enhancement by any means, including genetic modification.20 On the
other hand, some opponents argue that genetic engineering technologies carry physical, ethical and
legal concerns,21 and that they are particularly problematic if their effect is to change the human
9 CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Ekaterina Pak, CRISPR: A Game-Changing Genetic Engineering Technique, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES:
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS (July 31, 2014), http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/crispr-a-game-changing-genetic-
engineering-technique/. See also What is CRISPR-Cas9?, YOURGENOME, http://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-
10 Heidi Ledford, CRISPR, the Disruptor, 522 NATURE 20, 20 (2005), http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-the-
11 Sara Reardon, First CRISPR Trial Gets Green Light from U.S. Panel, NATURE (June 22, 2016),
12 Sharon Begley, A CRISPR-Based Fix for Human Sickle Cells Shows Promise in Mice, STAT (Oct. 12, 2016),
13 See, e.g., Lori B. Andrews, George Annas & Rosario M. Isasi, Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an
International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alterations, 28 AMER. J. L. & MED. 153 (2002).
14 Rob Stein, Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium on Human Genome Edits, NPR (Mar. 20, 2015),
16 Francis Fukuyama, Transhumanism, 144 FOREIGN POL’Y 42, 42 (2004) (emphasis added).
17 See e.g., Michael D. Rivard, Contemporary Issues in Administrative Adjudication: Comment: Toward a General
Theory of Constitutional Personhood: A Theory of Constitutional Personhood for Transgenic Humanoid Species, 39
UCLA L. REV. 1425, 1431-33 (1992).
18 See, e.g., Andrews, Annas & Isasi, supra note 13; Rivard, supra note 17; Fukuyama, supra note 16.
19 A broad definition of “Transhumanism” is that it is a movement generally seeking to expand natural human
capabilities and eliminate natural human limitations through technology. See Transhumanist Declaration,
HUMANITY+, http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/ (last visited May 12, 2017).
20 What We Do, HUMANITY+, http://humanityplus.org/ (last visited May 12, 2017).
21 See generally Andrews, Annas & Isasi, supra note 13.