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Molecular engineering, genetic diseases

Could Genetically Designed Humans Be Any Worse?

 By Dr. Gifford Jones  Thursday, October 7, 2010

How would you like to live in a world where there was no dishonesty? No more devious Enron accountants. No need to lock your doors. No more headlines that a police officer was shot to death for no reason. No more drug pushers. No more September 11’s. But judging from past history none of this is going to happen. So faced with such a lousy track record wouldn’t genetically designed humans free of corrupt and lethal genes be an improvement?

I’m tired of seeing night after night Israel’s and Palestinians killing each other. And what irony it’s in the Holy Land! It’s appalling that after two thousand years they still refuse to shake hands.

Then there’s the continuing battle in Northern Ireland. I’ll never forget the terror on the face of a young child as big macho males threatened her on the way to school. And while I’m writing this column Hindu’s and Muslin’s are slaughtering one another. It goes on and on. Peace on earth and goodwill to men just isn’t happening.

The problem is that we’re not just talking about warring factions within nations. Let’s face it people with decent genes don’t steal cars. Then roar down the road at 120 miles an hour and kill innocent by-standers. Nor do they rob banks, toss anthrax into letters or rape old women.

I’m tired of hearing that the evil people just got a bad start in life. That there parents were no-good drunks or whatever. As the Duke of Wellington once said of his own birth, “Just because you were born in a barn doesn’t make you a horse”. Maybe that’s the reason some people go astray. But we all know people who had a real good kick in the pants and still became president. For me the tough luck argument doesn’t hold water much water.

Can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be without this frightful genetic material. How the resources of the world community could then be re-channeled into productive issues. Clean water for millions who don’t have it. Drugs for all the victims of AIDS. No waiting lists for surgery. And newspapers would only have good news to report! This list also goes on an on.

So is there any way to make people love his or her neighbour? I simply can’t envision any current way around this dilemma. Money isn’t the answer. Just consider the Enron fiasco. Some smart people still are infected with crooked genes.

The only hope may be genetic manipulation. And just one of these days all the opponents of tinkering with genes may have to conclude it’s not a bad idea to produce better humans? That it may be the only way to save the planet from self-destruction.

But long before this might happen we have to overcome another major obstacle. Today it’s possibly by molecular engineering to rid humanity of some terrible genetic diseases. Ones that give young children and others a real kick-in-the-pants.

Recently it was reported that doctors were able to remove the gene from a patient with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A procedure that would protect her children from this frightful malady. Yet , the same day some people immediately cried out this was one step on the road to Hitler’s Germany. Even though Lou Gehrig’s Disease is possibly the worst fate that can befall anyone. Patients although alert mentally gradually drown in their own mucus.

Then there’s the current debate about stem cell research. These cells have the potential to develop into more specialized cells. Cells that could become nervous tissue, pancreatic tissue or produce others organs needed for transplant operations.

This research could treat whole range of diseases. Hopefully get people suffering from spinal cord injuries out of wheel chairs. Help others with heart disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological problems.

Canada, the U.S and other nations now have guidelines for stem cell research.

But right-to-life groups are already fighting stem cell research. Why ? Because some stem cells are obtained from human embryos many of which are to be destroyed any way.

Now some scientists may circumvent this research. They are fearful of being targeted by anti-abortion groups and are fearful for their lives.

Totally paralyzed people must find this attitude appalling and shake their heads in dismay at this line of reasoning. That their hope to walk was being curtailed by religious groups who want to push their views on others.

That’s why designer humans won’t happen and eviI acts will continue. And why people in need of transplants won’t get them. These rotten genes may eventually kill all of us.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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