Duration of stay: October to December 2019
Noemi Conditi is an Italian law student from the University of Bologna – ALMA MATER STUDIORUM, currently attending the last year.
From September 2017 to February 2018 she has been in Erasmus at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, where she had the opportunity to further develop her knowledge in the field of human rights and medical law. In particular, she studied the possible application of a Restorative Justice approach in the field of medical responsibility.
She is currently doing research at the Institute of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Goettingen University for her master thesis "Gene-editing of in vitro created embryos and the Crispr/Cas-9 technique: questions of ethics and constitutionality in a comparative perspective".
Gene-editing of in vitro created embryos and the Crispr/Cas-9 technique: questions of ethics and constitutionality in a comparative perspective
New scientific discoveries in the field of genetics, and in particular the rapid development of the Crispr/Cas-9 technique, with which it is possible to delete and replace the part of the human genome responsible of a certain genetic disease, engender old and new issues. In particular, when the scientific research will reach a safety and efficacy level, as for concrete results and possible avoidance of side effects and sufficient to begin with the clinical application of these techniques in humans, the discussion will focus more on its use on in vitro created embryos then on adults, because of the constitutional and ethical issues raised thereby. Indeed, in the former scenario, germ cells would be edited and the genetic modification would be inherited by subsequent generations. It is precisely this possibility that raises concern worldwide, because of its potential to create designed babies and enable so-called enhancement.
As a consequence, at the European level, a general ban on the genetic manipulation of embryos has been issued and in almost every Western country there is an ongoing internal tension between the wish not to be left out the scientific developments and debate on the matter on the one hand, and the desire to protect some old moral axioms on the other.
The aim of the research is thus to analyse in a comparative perspective the constitutional implications in Italy, Germany (both considered conservative on the matter) and United Kingdom (mainly liberal) of the use of the CRISPR/Cas-9 technique on in vitro embryos, within the process of in vitro fertilisation. In order to carry out an efficient analysis, it is necessary to understand the differences, if any, between other medical practices which are usually allowed, such as prenatal genetic diagnosis used in order to discard embryos with a detectable genetic illness, therapeutic abortion, and genetic manipulation. In particular what I would like to understand is if there are substantial reasons, other than a conservative consideration of the status of the embryos itself, grounded in historical and religious backgrounds, at the basis of the general ban and fear in this sphere.
In particular, it will be analysed what role some constitutional basic rights, such as mainly the right to life, health and self-determination, as well as the protection of human dignity, may have in the discourse. However, problems related to the lack of consent by the future child and his/her descendants and to the possibility of discrimination against disabled persons should be taken into consideration.