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Cat and mouse gene game
Patients’ psychological well-being and freedom to choose also are important considerations. “Mere” enhancement is not trivial to the adolescent boy who is 6 inches shorter than anyone else in his class, or to many adults of either sex who suffer hair loss. One need look no further than the huge societal demand for cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, tanning salons and health clubs, to be reminded how important people consider it is to look and feel good.
In a 1992 editorial, the Economist posed the critical question, “What of genes that might make a good body better, rather than make a bad one good? Should people be able to retrofit themselves with extra neurotransmitters to enhance various mental powers? Or to change the color of their skin? Or to help them run faster, or lift heavier weights?” Its admirably libertarian answer: “Yes, they should. Within some limits, people have a right to make what they want of their lives.”
In view of what people want and what society permits in other realms, should not those limits be very wide?
Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of “The Frankenfood Myth.” From 1979 to 1994, he was an official at the Food and Drug Administration.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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