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Human germline genome editing (HGGE) involves modifying the DNA in order to prevent that prospective parents who are (both) carrier of a genetic disease, pass this disease on to their offspring. Although this sounds promising, techniques that modify the DNA also open the door to undesirable possibilities of 'human enhancement' and 'selection of persons', which is why it should be properly examined regarding (violation of) human rights. In her article for the European Journal of Health Law, Merel Spaander analyses the rise of HGGE in light of the European Convention of Human Rights and its assisting case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Due to safety and efficiency challenges, HGGE has not been clinically implemented, yet it is unrealistic that it will be in the near furture. Therefore, the aim of the article is to provide guidance for developing a clear human rights-based legal framework once HGGE will be clinically implemented in Europe.

Assisted procreation is often associated with Article 8 ('right to respect for private  and family life') and Article 2 ('right to life'). Which has led Spaander to examine the following questions in her article: a) is there a right to procreation with HGGE under Article 8 of the ECHR and b) what is the legal status of a human (gene-edited) embryo under Article 2 of the ECHR? Spaander states that although procreative rights are increasingly acknowledgded under Article 8, this does not ensure a right to procreate by means of HGGE. With regard to the 'right to life' of a human embryo - or a gene-edited embryo for that matter - the ECHR as well as the ECtHR remain unclear. 

In conclusions, there is no clear answer to the question how the clinical implementation of HGGE should be interpreted in light of the ECHR and its existing case-law on Article 2 and Article 8. If anything, it shows that the process to develop regulation is a complex interaction between various human rights aspects that need to be balanced.

M.M. (Merel) Spaander MSc LLM

Faculty of Law