Commentary on Zohar's "Prospects for 'Genetic Therapy' -- Can a Person Benefit From Being Altered?"
Kahn, Jeffrey P.
Bioethics. 1991 Oct; 5(4): 312-317.
In his paper on the effects of Prenatal Genetic Intervention (PGI) on personal identity, Noam Zohar comes to a conclusion about genetic makeup and the uses of gene therapy quite different from the one I reach in another piece in this issue. Zohar's argument rests on the contention that personal identity changes with alteration of the genome, following what I have identified as the "constitutive" view. To see that this is the pillar supporting the weight of his argument, consider the following. Questions of identity aside, how can it be that altering the genome of children suffering from Lesch-Nyhan syndrome or Tay-Sachs disease so that they now produce the enzyme that they formerly lacked does not benefit them? Clearly, if their identities were not changed, such individuals would in fact realize great benefit from PGI, since the devastating bad effects of the genetic flaw would be avoided. Such a change would certainly make the altered individuals better off, that is, it would benefit them. On this, Zohar and I do not disagree. Persistence of identity through such genetic change is the sticking point.
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