Germline Genome Editing Research: What Are Gamete Donors (Not) Informed About in Consent Forms?

Germline Genome Editing Research: What Are Gamete Donors (Not) Informed About in Consent Forms?
Research Article
Emilia Niemiec, Heidi Carmen Howard
The CRISPR Journal, February 2020; 3(1) 2020
Open Access
The potential for using germline genome editing (GGE) in humans has garnered a lot of attention, both for its scientific possibilities as well as for the ethical, legal, and social challenges it ignites. The ethical debate has focused primarily on the suggestions of using GGE to establish a pregnancy (i.e., to offer it in a clinical setting), which is, to date, illegal in many jurisdictions. The use of GGE in research (where a pregnancy would not be established) has received much less attention, despite the fact that it raises serious ethical and social issues as well. Herein, we report on the analysis of informed consent forms for egg and sperm donation used in a widely publicized study where genome editing was used to correct a disease-causing genetic mutation in human embryos. Importantly, embryos were created using eggs and sperm obtained specifically for these experiments. The analysis indicates deficiencies in how the forms addressed various issues, including limited and potentially misleading information about the sensitive nature of the study, the lack of an explicit mention of genomic sequencing, as well as the poor readability of the forms. Furthermore, the arguably high compensation of U.S.$5,000 for egg donors raises questions about undue inducement to participate in research. Moreover, since the procurement of eggs involves serious health risks, it may be questioned whether research requiring such a procedure should be pursued. If such experiments are continued, donors should be informed about all relevant aspects in order to make informed decisions about participating.

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