The family of Jesse Gelsinger, the 18-year-old who died last
in a gene therapy experiment at the University of Pennsylvania,
filed suit against the researchers and institutions involved
the experiment: the university, two medical facilities, and
the biotech company founded by lead scientist James Wilson that
stake in the successful outcome of the experiment. The lawsuit
the defendants of negligent, reckless, or fraudulent acts.
Gelsinger's death was followed by revelations of serious regulatory
violations and financial conflicts of interest in the Penn trial,
as well as in hundreds of gene therapy experiments nationwide.
Issues 7 and 10 of this newsletter.)
Media coverage of the lawsuit focused on its inclusion of well-known
bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who advised the researchers on the
of the experiment. Caplan argued that the parents of sick infants
too desperate to provide true informed consent, and that the
should therefore be conducted on relatively healthy adults.
on Caplan's role, and on bioethicists' growing influence and
conflicts, see Arthur Allen, "Bioethics comes of age,"
In venues unrelated to the Gelsinger case, Caplan has often
that human germline engineering is "inevitable." In
December 1999 he
wrote, "Before the next century is out, fetuses will no
their mother's womb for nourishment and growth. We will see
children made by the artificial creation of embryos. . .This
is 100 percent certain. . ..There will be strong social pressure
eugenics to improve children in order to minimize the social
disease and chronic disability. The rush to use eugenics will
amazing, with parents competing to give their kids the `best'
in life." See <http://www.msnbc.com/news/352113.asp>