Public Views of Gene Editing for Babies Depend on How It Would Be Used

Source: Pew Research Center

Americans are more likely to anticipate negative than positive effects from widespread use of gene-editing technology

A baby girl holds her mother’s hand. (Tuan Tran/Getty Images)

A baby girl holds her mother’s hand. (Tuan Tran/Getty Images)

A majority of U.S. adults says changing a baby's genes to a treat a serious congenital disease is appropriateAmericans’ views on the appropriateness of changing a baby’s genetic characteristics depend in large part on the intended purpose and on whether or not human embryos would be used in testing these techniques. A majority of Americans support the idea of using gene editing with the goal of delivering direct health benefits for babies, but at the same time, a majority considers the use of such techniques to boost a baby’s intelligence something that takes technology “too far.”

About seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say that changing an unborn baby’s genetic characteristics to treat a serious disease or condition that the baby would have at birth is an appropriate use of medical technology, while 27% say this would be taking technology too far. A somewhat smaller share of Americans say gene editing to reduce a baby’s risk of developing a serious disease or condition over their lifetime is appropriate (60% say this, while 38% say it would be taking medical technology too far). But just 19% of Americans say it would be appropriate to use gene editing to make a baby more intelligent; eight-in-ten (80%) say this would be taking medical technology too far.

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