New Hastings Center Project to Address Profound Questions about Human Gene Editing

The Hastings Center has launched an international project that focuses on the social and ethical implications of using powerful gene editing methods on human germline cells (embryos, sperm, and eggs). Such methods would create permanent changes passed on from one generation to the next. These technologies, especially CRISPR-Cas9, have raised unprecedented hopes for benefiting human health, with scientists around the world working intensively with gene editing to find novel ways to treat cancer and other gene-based diseases. 

However, gene editing also posessuch profound safety and ethical questions that some of the scientists who developed CRISPR-Cas9 called for amoratorium on its use in humans, providing time to consider whether and how to deploy it.  

Leading the Hastings Center’s project are Erik Parens, a senior research scholar, and Josephine Johnston, director of research. Co-investigators are Gregory Kaebnick, a research scholar, and Mildred Z. Solomon, president. The three-year project, which is supported with nearly $1 million from the Templeton Foundation, will examine a variety of fundamental questions about how use of gene editing in humans might affect “human flourishing” and core human values such as love, compassion, acceptance, and respect for those with disability.  

To address this broad set of questions, The Hastings Center is convening a multidisciplinary working group of leading scholars from around the world with backgrounds in medicine, genetics, social science, philosophy, moral psychology, and law. They will explore the potential implications of gene editing on a range of personal and societal issues in areas such as human reproduction, human enhancement, and social justice. 

The Hastings Center Report A bimonthly journal promoting ethics in health, medicine, and the environment.
IRB: Ethics & Human Research A bimonthly journal probing ethical issues in human research studies.
Center News
In The Media

Stat News
March 3, 2016
Michael Gusmano and Nancy Berlinger quoted in an article about health care costs for undocumented immigrants.

NPR “Morning Edition”
December 7, 2015
Mildred Solomon interviewed about a controversial study of the length of medical residents’ shifts.

Nov. 11, 2015
Erik Parens writes an essay, “Made to Order,” on the prospects of editing genes of unborn children.

Washington Post
October 28, 2015
Mildred Solomon interviewed about the ethics of a study on medical residents working long shifts.

NPR’s “To the Point”
August 28
Nancy Berlinger interviewed on ethical behavior in the operating room.

New York Times
August 21
Nancy Berlinger interviewed about an incident of doctors behaving disrespectfully toward patients who are sedated.

The New Yorker
August 24, 2015
Nancy Berlinger writes a letter to the editor, “Get With the Program.”  

Boston Globe
August 6, 2015
Mildred Solomon writes a letter to the editor, “Bioethicists do embrace science, but not indiscriminately.”
July 31, 2015
Mildred Solomon and Nancy Berlinger write a commentary, "Seizing a Medicare Moment to Improve End-of-Life Care." 

Health Affairs Blog
June 5, 2015
Mildred Solomon writes a commentary, “How Institutional Review Boards Can Support Learning Health Systems While Providing Meaningful Oversight.”

The New York Times
April 21, 2015
Erik Parens writes a commentary on the use of cognitive enhancers in the office.

The New York Times
January 19, 2015
A lead article in the Science section discusses Hastings Center Report articles on the ethically and legally controversial use of advance directives to enable people with dementia to hasten their death by refusing food and water.

The New Republic
November 1, 2014
Josephine Johnston co-authors an article on the risks of egg freezing.

The New York Times
July 11, 2014
A letter to the editor by Greg Kaebnick discusses humans’ relationship to the wilderness.

Roll Call
July 10, 2014
Hastings Center board member Joseph J. Fins writes a commentary, “Congress, With Help of Private Ryan, Can Save the VA.”

June 16 & 17
Nancy Berlinger and Mildred Solomon quoted in separate articles about the family dispute over Casey Kasem’s end-of-life wishes.

May 10, 2014
Josephine Johnston quoted about Long Island doctors who recommend medications to hospitals while being paid by drug companies.

May 6, 2014
Hastings Center senior advisor Rosemary Gibson looks at a small town in Maine to see the human impact of escalating health care costs on a community.

Wall Street Journal
April 28, 2014
Josephine Johnston quoted in an article about fertility treatments and multiple births, which also cites new article by Johnston, Michael Gusmano, and Pasquale Patrizio in Fertility and Sterility.

WMHT public television, Albany
April 10, 2014
Mildred Solomon interviewed on “Health Link” about the benefits of palliative care. 

March 15, 2014
Josephine Johnston quoted on federal charges against Novartis for paying doctors to prescribe pills.

Associated Press and NPR
January 1, 2014
Nancy Berlinger quoted on brain death and the case of Jahi McMath.

New York Times 
December 1, 2013
Daniel Callahan’s op-ed, “On Dying After Your Time,” is published in the Sunday Review.

October 8, 2013
Hastings Center Report case on doctors googling a patient is subject of an article.

September 18, 2013
Michael Gusmano quoted on relationship between mental illness and violence.

August 14, 2013
Tom Murray quoted about ethical questions raised by the BRAIN initiative.

Huffington Post
July 31, 2013
Hastings Center Guidelines called “a new must read resource for healthcare consumers.”

The New York Times
July 29, 2013
Nancy Berlinger quoted on dilemmas posed by pre-clinical testing for Alzheimer’s disease.

U.S. News Best Hospital Guidebook
July 12, 2013
Blair Sadler, board member and Fellow, interviewed about Fable hospital; Hastings Center Report essays cited. 

New York Times New Old Age blog
June 16, 2013
Over 65 blog post cited on why a geriatrician stopped accepting Medicare.

Huffington Post Live
June 6, 2013
Mildred Solomon, president, interviewed about pediatric lung transplants.

NPR’s Science Friday
May 17, 2013 
Josephine Johnston discusses ethical implications of new research that created the first human embryonic stem cells through cloning.

World Medical and Health Policy
March 2013
Michael Gusmano examines U.S. cancer survival statistics in light of claims that the U.S. health care system is the “best in the world.” 

Cell Stem Cell
February 7, 2013
Josephine Johnston coauthors article about absence of gamete donor consent in the NIH stem cell registry

The New York Times
January 20, 2013
Tom Murray quoted on the “arms race” in sport doping  

The New York Times
January 11, 2013
Letter to the Editor by Daniel Callahan on costs of medical care at the end of life