In medical terms, it can be argued that to repair defective DNA so that the correct functioning of a gene is restored is a further extension of medicine, that has in the last 50 years taken us into hitherto unknown regions such as organ transplants, radiation therapy and in vitro fertilisation. As our knowledge of the human body and its functioning has increased, we can now envisage treating patients at a genetic level. In this sense, it would seem to raise no ethical problems if, instead of injecting a vital protein that is deficient in a patient, the gene which should be stimulating the body to produce that protein might have its normal function restored. Somatic gene therapy can be seen as a special case of medical treatment, in the sense of focussing familiar questions by the risks of a relatively unknown area of science, and the novel power and specificity of the level of intervention in the body.
In its report to the Government on the ethics of gene therapy, the Clothier Committe reported that although somatic gene therapy did not, in their view, represent a major departure from established medical practice, that familiar issues such as safety, unpredictable consequences and consent would assume greater importance because of the nature of genetic disorders. With the new degree of power and specificity of treating the body at the genetic level comes also a new degree of sensititivity to error and uncertainty in a relatively young science. There are some parallels in that sense with the development of nuclear physics from conventional physics, or lasers compared with ordinary light beams. Prudence indicates a proper caution, more than simply what would be required, say, for a new drug - in extensive and careful trials, the due consideration of side effects, in long term monitoring, and in counselling and consent procedures. Subject to such proper precautions, there would seem no more reason to object on ethical grounds to gene therapy than any existing therapy for a serious disease. On the contrary, as Christians we would strongly encourage efforts for the allieviation of the suffering of those with such diseases.
Criminals : What kinds of efforts should we make to rehabilitate
A. Is there an obligation to differentiate between violent and nonviolent crimes?
B. Regarding "cruel and unusual punishments," what rights should prisoners have?
(1) should there be protection against homosexual rape?
(2) to what degree should criminals be supported in the right to appeal?
(What if they are in fact innocent?)
C. Is there a moral justification for capital punishment, also known as institutional murder?
(1) What degrees of defense and protection should there be to make sure the innocent are not executed?
(2) Would some punishments, such as flogging, be less destructive and expensive in the long run and more deterrent?
D. What kinds of moral obligations do we have not to release people on parole who have shown themselves to be fully rehabilitated? Or to release people who have not shown a continuing threat to society?
(1) How many chances should people be given for various problematic behaviors?
E. What about obligations for restitution to the victims of crime?