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Point-Counterpoint: Callahan and Venter on Genetic Progress

What if any limits should there be on genetic research aimed at extending human longevity? Hastings Center cofounder Daniel Callahan and geneticist J. Craig Venter, parse the ethical quandaries in Aging Today.

Venter says that his goal, in starting Human Longevity, Inc. two years ago, “is to revolutionize the practice of medicine, changing it from a reactive state to a proactive-preventive state.” The company name, he adds, “might imply that we only care about prolonging life, however we are focused on extending the healthy human life span by using a whole genome and a whole body view of health and disease.” Read more here.

Callahan writes, “Sugar-plumbs are surely dancing in the heads of genetic researchers and those in the medical community, as well as temping a wide range of industries seeing profit in the new knowledge.” But he expresses hesitations about potential harms, including “newborn children being genetically screened for dozens of lifetime future health risks, leaving a cloud hanging over their lives.” Read more here.

The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.

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