Australian Citizens' Jury on Genome Editing

Scientists can now edit genes with relative ease and precision. Although there is much we still do not know, genome editing offers new possibilities for improving human and ecological wellbeing. At the same time, it poses risks and ethical challenges

 

We believe that ordinary citizens, not just professional ethicists and scientists, can deliberate effectively on these complex matters. This is why we convened a national citizens’ jury on genome editing that will feed into a global conversation on the issue.

Download our information packet for more information about the event.

The Event

Last 17th to 20th June, twenty-three ordinary Australians selected from all over the country came to Canberra to deliberate on this question: Under what conditions or circumstances might the application of human genome editing technology be acceptable?

Participants had access to some of the country leading experts and genome editing. They were given time to reflect on their views and engage in a series of large and small group deliberations with the help of trained facilitators. The citizens’ jury concluded with a ‘turnover ceremony’ where their recommendations were conveyed to the country’s most important decision-makers in the fields of science, health, and regulation.

Overall, the citizens’ jury was designed to contribute to shaping the public conversation and policymaking about genome editing technologies and around the world.

This event was co-organised by the Centre for Law and Genetics at the University of Tasmania in collaboration with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra funded by the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund Genomics Health Futures Mission.

The Outcome

Human genome editing should be used to eradicate diseases and not to create people with superpowers. That’s the strong consensus arising from the first national “citizens’ jury” on the subject, held over the weekend in Canberra.

After four days of guided discussions, the jury concluded:

 

  • Participants were generally positive about the possibilities associated with genome editing technology.

  • Participants were concerned about the risk that changes made to our genomes could be inherited, and agreed that heritable genome editing should not yet be undertaken.

  • Support for research in genomics was almost universal.

  • Participants emphasised that applications of genome editing should be directed to therapeutic benefits, with little support for enhancement.

  • They all agreed that the focus should be on reducing human suffering.

  • Access should be equitable, and subject to regulation informed by input from experts, stakeholders and the broader public, particularly those with disabilities and parents of children with serious diseases.

  • There should be particular focus on ensuring that no one is compelled to seek treatment, and this involves informed consent.

  • Participants mentioned that they did not hear strong views from those more critical of the technology.

 

The Global Citizens’ Jury on Genome Editing

 

The Australian Citizens’ Jury on genome editing is part of a series of national juries taking place around the world. These juries are designed to lead into the world’s first Global Citizens’Assembly on Genome Editing to be held in Athens. Some participants from the AustralianCitizens’ Jury will represent Australia at the Global Citizens’ Assembly.

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