The genetic revolution is changing the very nature of medicine. Advances in genetics and genomics have opened the possibility for the increased effectiveness and affordability of medicine through the prospects of personalized or precision medicine, but have also led to the selection of embryos based on their genetic makeup through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and prenatal genetic testing or screening (PGT). Such advances have led to the altering of genes through gene therapies and other genetic interventions for the treatment of disease, but also raise concerns about potential future use of such interventions that move beyond mere therapeutic goals toward human enhancement ends. Genetic medicine is changing how we view behavior and personal responsibility, the gift of children, and the identity and nature of human beings. Developments in genetics and genomics offer exciting new modalities for medicine, they also raise a host of ethical, legal, and social considerations that include among others adverse diagnosis and genetic counseling, the rise of reprogenetics, do-it-yourself (DIY) genetic testing, gene patenting, biobanking, the prospects of big data and their application for personalized or precision medicine, as well as concerns regarding privacy and data security and the potential for genetic discrimination. Furthermore, evolving technological innovations in genetic interventions such as the development of CRISPR continue to demonstrate the importance of moral considerations and societal discourse regarding the proper limits of these technologies, particularly within the realm of human germline interventions.
Although RT no longer garners many headlines, this does not mean that it is free of controversial ethical issues, many of which challenge religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, and more broadly what it means to be human. Consequently, it is incumbent upon Christians to evaluate RT in light of their most deeply held theological and moral convictions, especially those considering using RT and those providing pastoral care and guidance in the discernment process.
Now, an increasing amount of information can be derived through various tests, screenings, and monitoring of the child through its earliest days. For example, genetic tests have become a standard aspect of pregnancy care in medically advanced countries such as the United States. Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is one such test, and it continues to grow in popularity. Much as going to college is often the assumed next step following high school graduation, prenatal testing is generally accepted as “what you do” when a woman is expecting. It might be prudent, therefore, for Christians to honestly grapple with some of the ethical considerations these tests raise.
The questions regarding the sanctity of human life are complex with developments like this. No longer direct questions of who lives and who dies, but questions like “What does it mean to be human?” Where are the boundaries between the human and the non-human? Where is the line between correcting things that are broken and enhancing abilities and even creating new capabilities?