Georgetown Medical Ethicist Voices Concern About Human Genetic Editing Claimed by Chinese Scientist

Medical ethicist Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD

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Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (November 26, 2018) — Media outlets are reporting that a Chinese scientist says he performed genetic editing to create twins girls who are resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This would reportedly be the first known case of humans undergoing genetic editing before birth. The announcement has stunned the medical and scientific community.

Medical ethicist Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD, says a scientist’s rush to “be the first” ought not put patients at risk.

“Almost all scientists and ethicists consider it morally irresponsible to attempt gene editing on human embryos intended to be brought to term,” says Sulmasy, a professor of medicine and philosophy at Georgetown University. “First, it is becoming clear that there are unintended and unpredictable effects, some of which can be deleterious. Not enough animal studies have been done to know that this can be accomplished safely. Secondly, any effects on an embryo will affect the reproductive cells and will be passed on to subsequent generations.”

Sulmasy is a member of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center who serves as acting director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.

To interview Sulmasy, please contact Karen Teber at

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic health and science center with a four-part mission of research, teaching, service and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. Connect with GUMC on Facebook ( and Twitter (@gumedcenter). Connect with Georgetown University School of Medicine on Facebook (, Twitter (@gumedicine) and Instagram (@GeorgetownMedicine).