Brave New World?

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Science  23 Aug 1974:
Vol. 185, Issue 4152, pp. 653-663
DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4152.653


Recent developments in biology and medicine are raising new problems in the prevention and treatment of birth defects, and in research on these diseases. The problems include immediate issues such as genetic counseling, abortion for birth defects, the withholding of complex treatments from individuals in some situations, screening for genetic and other diseases, artificial insemination, and fertilization in vitro. Other problems, such as the dysgenic effects of modern medicine and the possibilities of cloning and gene therapy, are more remote. Each of these issues should be considered on its own merits and by its immediate and remote consequences rather than by a priori absolute criteria. Ways must be found to deal with these issues in a manner acceptable to most human beings. Open discussions and freedom from coercion are the best guarantees for ultimate success. The ethical human brain is the highest accomplishment of biologic evolution. By harmonizing our scientific, cultural, and ethical capabilities, the potentially achievable results can place us at the threshold of a new era of better health and less human suffering.