Congress was the scene of conspicuous debate about human gene therapy during the 1980s. Congressional interest was sparked primarily by concerns about germ-line gene therapy expressed by clerics and public interest groups. The initial debate was provoked by Martin Cline's misadventures in 1980 and rekindled in 1983 by congressional resolution against germ-line intervention sponsored by Senator Mark Hatfield. The first hearing on gene therapy was held upon the release of the President's Commission report Splicing Life, in November, 1982, before a House subcommittee chaired by Congressman Albert Gore, Jr. Representative Gore later requested a report on gene therapy, which was released by the Office of Technology Assessment in December, 1984. He also sponsored the legislation that established the Biomedical Ethics Board and Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee, Congress's abortive attempt to reestablish a federal bioethics commission. Implications of advances in human genetics, including gene therapy, were to be among the first topics addressed. Congress passed no substantive legislation affecting gene therapy research or clinical trials, but served principally as a national theater for debate. If and when germ-line gene therapy is contemplated, Congress will be faced with difficult choices, but will likely take no action to block trials that appear safe and are intended to produce clinical benefit for particular individuals. Because of the public's concern about human genetic engineering, Congress has taken an active role in evaluating the public policy issues surrounding human gene therapy. Cook-Deegan, particularly during his tenure at the OTA, has himself been a key figure in this evaluation. In this article Cook-Deegan examines the role Congress has played in the past and is likely to play in the future with regard to human gene therapy.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Human Gene Therapy|
|State||Published - Jul 1 1990|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology