Bioethics Experts Call for More Oversight in China
The China government authorities have been asked by four senior research scholar to strengthen their supervision over scientific research in order to prevent the chances of unfair use of biomedical technologies involving gene editing and stem cells.
Through the journal Nature, the appeal influenced by a major ethical scandal when a Chinese scientist proclaimed that he had developed the world's first twin human babies whose genes were modified to make them immune to HIV.
A Genuine Concern
A group of Chinese scientists opposed the development and raise concern over the safety and trustworthiness of the method following the statement by He Jiankui, 35, who was associated as an associate professor with Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
A team of investigators said he intentionally avoided oversight to conduct the research in pursuit of glory and profit but such act may lead him into the jail. Following the incident, the university suspended him and terminated his employment contract.
The four scholars concerned about the occurrence of such an event in the future. According to their opinion in Nature journal, China is at a critical juncture and advised the government to take substantial steps in order to protect people from the unknown effects of reckless human experimentation.
"Authorities should take some serious step to improve the governance of values and standard in scientific research in order to avoid the loopholes exposed in He's case," One of the four scientists told. The outcome of the investigation in the case should be revealed in front of the public including the punishments that will be given for misdeed to all involved.
A Genuine Intention
The most important reason behind the publication of the article was to an exhibition of the resolution of government and ethics experts to correct the ethical compliance in scientific research.
In the assertion, the four scholars said the government should formalize precise rules and regulations on the use of technologies and in case of any offense the government should induce hard punishments to the offenders, including disqualifying them from scientific research.
"Self-regulation of scientists is unlikely to be enough, keeping in mind their potential conflicts of interest under market pressures. Thus, the top-down system of regulation is crucial," they said.
The scholars advised that authorities such as the National Health Commission should have substantial supervision for all gene-editing centers and IVF clinics in China to assure practices are according to the regulations.
According to them, a national registry referenced to clinical experiments involving cell technologies should be built to increase the greater transparency. The system will bring clarity for the clinical trial and the scientists would need to pass an ethics review at the same time need to provide a list of names of all stakeholders including scientists and institutions.
Universities and research institutes should encourage education and training in bioethics and scientific and medical professionalism, including the research scientists and students of science, medicine, and the humanities at all levels