Specifically targeted genetic alterations to human embryos for research and reproduction purposes are prohibited and penalized in Germany under the now almost 30-year-old Embryo Protection Act (ESchG). Through this statute, which is anchored in criminal law, the legislator intended to establish the limits for influencing human life by assisted reproduction techniques and genetic engineering.
Scientific progress, three decades of experience in reproductive medicine and legal inconsistencies, e.g. in comparison with the regulations on contraception, abortion, and preimplantation diagnostics, necessitate an adjustment of the legal concept laid down in the ESchG and the protection of embryos. The current state of knowledge, the actual practice of reproductive medicine itself and globally emerging developments, such as gene therapy on human embryos, must be taken into account.
The working group is developing proposals for a scientifically sound, legally and ethically acceptable approach. In doing so, the pluralism in questions of human dignity and the protection of the life of embryos and impregnated ova in the pronuclear stage, as well as the protection of freedom of research and the interests of future patients must be factored into the process.
ML = Member oft the Leopoldina
Head of Office of the Joint Committee for the Handling of Security-Relevant Research
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