Genetic Enhancement and the Future of Society
Mehlman, Maxwell J.
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/16/2003
Format: Hardback 2 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-34274-4
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Wondergenes not only imagines a future world in which genetic enhancement is the norm, but asserts that this future has already begun. Genetically engineered substances are already in use by athletes, in vitro fertilization already provides the primitive means by which parents can "select" an embryo, and the ability to create new forms of genetically engineered human beings is not far off. What happens when gene therapy becomes gene enhancement? Who will benefit and who might be left behind? What are the costs to our values and beliefs, and to the future of our society? To answer these questions, Maxwell J. Mehlman provides an overview of the scientific advances that have led to the present state of genetic enhancement and explains how these advances will be used in the future to redefine what we think of as a normal human being. He explores the ethical dilemmas already facing researchers and medical practitioners, and the dilemmas we will all be expected to face. In his forecast of the dangers inherent in this technology, he is particularly concerned with the emergence of a "genobility" made up of those able to afford increasingly expensive enhancement.

Wondergenes is a serious, accessible introduction to the social and personal implications of genetic engineering. Mehlman weighs the social and economic costs of the many proposals to regulate or limit genetic engineering and provides six concrete policy recommendations—from professional licensing to a ban on germ-line enhancement—that propose to make the future of genetic enhancement more equitable and safe.

Author Bio

Maxwell J. Mehlman is Arthur E. Petersilge Professor of Law and Director of the Law-Medicine Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and Professor of Biomedical Ethics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He is co-author of Access to the Genome: The Challenge to Equality and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Ethical, Legal and Policy Issues in Biotechnology. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.


Wondergenes is a spirited and lively guide to the promises and perils of genetic enhancement. Well—grounded in the science, [the book] poses the central ethical questions posed by enhancement, explains the legal context, and offers intriguing suggestions for law and public policy.Mehlman deftly explores this powerfully seductive and socially destabilizing biotechnology, and authoritatively suggests legal steps we humans must take to regulate it if we are to have any real chance to garner its benefits and avoid its species—wide destructive potential. —George J. Annas, author of The Rights of Patients and cWondergenes is Maxwell Mehlman’s wake—up call to a world that hasn’t quite figured out that our genetic future is here. A whole generation of children, senior citizens, and the middle aged are drinking, injecting and pumping chemicals into their bodies to get ‘an edge’ in every aspect of life. Is that good? Is that fair to the rest of the world—or even the rest of the soccer team? Mehlman is brilliant, and this is the most sophisticated discussion of enhancement ever written, covering the ethical, legal and personal issues that are already on our doorstep. This book will be on the shelf of every policymaker, clergyperson, and businessnessperson who wants to ‘get ahead’ on the subject of ‘getting ahead.’

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

1. An Announcement at the White House
2. Scientific Foundations
3. Four Revolutions
4. The Fifth Revolution
5. Safety and Effectiveness
6. Autonomy
7. Authenticity
8. Access
9. Inequality and Unfairness
10. Hubris
11. Solutions
12. Better Solutions
13. Spotting Enhancement
14. Conclusion