In the final report of this project (available in Dutch), we describe the issues, concerns and questions raised by participants of the dialogues. We have broken these down into six main themes, each with a central question:
- Do we want to modify embryo DNA and if so, for what purpose?
- How should we shape the clinical practice in which the editing of embryo DNA is embedded?
- What are the risks associated with editing embryo DNA and how do we deal with them?
- Which organisational and ethical issues are connected to basic and clinical research on editing embryo DNA?
- What consequences could the clinical application of editing embryo DNA have for society?
- What notions of the good life, reproduction and parenthood exist in relation to editing embryo DNA?
This variety of themes illustrates that participants of the DNA dialogue formed their opinions based on various considerations and perspectives.
In general, participants of the DNA dialogue are not fundamentally opposed to the modification of the DNA of future persons. This does not mean, however, that they are automatically in favour of it: they consider it acceptable or desirable only if it is applied for very specific purposes (only to prevent serious hereditary diseases) and under strict conditions.
Participants fear that important (societal) values, such as autonomy, accessibility of care for people with a disorder, diversity, acceptance of differences and non-discrimination would be threatened if DNA modification were allowed. It is important to them that these values are preserved.
They also consider it important that in the future, people who want to have children can make a free, well-considered choice whether or not to use these techniques. They fear that prospective parents may experience societal pressure to edit the DNA of their future children. In addition, they highly value the safety of clinical applications, about which there is still much scientific uncertainty.
There is also a significant group of participants (often with Christian backgrounds) who find it unacceptable to use human embryos in research on the safety and effectiveness of modifying the DNA of future persons.
A full description of the outcomes of the dialogues can be found in the final report and in the article ‘The DNA-Dialogue: A Broad Societal Dialogue About Human Germline Genome Editing in the Netherlands’, that was published in The CRISPR Journal.