He Jiankui faces possible criminal liability

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/29 22:43:41

Chinese scientist He Jiankui presents his gene-editing experiment at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

 The Ministry of Science and Technology has suspended the work of people involved in the controversial gene-edited baby case, while Chinese medical law experts called for equal protection for the two babies' citizenship rights.

Xu Nanping, vice minister of science and technology, said on Thursday that the ministry will work with related authorities to deal with the case based on Chinese law, China Central Television reported.

He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher based in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, on Monday claimed to have altered the DNA of twin girls born a few weeks ago to prevent them from contracting HIV.

Xu reiterated the ministry's stance against the gene-editing clinic operations.

Xu made the remarks amid rising doubts over how He would be dealt with considering the lack of specific laws.

"He's move seriously violated the Regulation on the Prevention and Handling of Medical Disputes," Liu Ruishuang, a professor at Peking University's Institute of Medical Humanities, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Any medical institute that applied new technology to clinical trials without a technical assessment and ethical review faces a penalty of up to 100,000 yuan ($14,399), according to a document released on the website of the State Council, China's cabinet, in August.

The head of cases that seriously violate the regulation would be dismissed and medical workers involved would be stripped off their license, the regulation said.

Liu noted that no hospital has admitted involvement in the experiment, and said He will also be investigated for criminal liability if he cooperated with any illegal clinic in the experiment.

Liu stressed that the two baby girls, known as Lulu and Nana in previous reports, can also file a lawsuit against He, his team and their parents in the future if the experiment causes any damage to their bodies.

 Liu said that the twins should be entitled to full citizenship rights, including marriage and reproduction.

Authorities should protect them from personal information leaks and discrimination while also taking the public's concerns into consideration, Liu said.

Huang Feng, director of Beijing Normal University's Institute for International Criminal Law, told the Global Times on Thursday that the couples' consent could be invalidated as it may violate the two babies' right to life.

The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, which attracted worldwide attention because of He's claims, concluded on Thursday. The organizing committee issued a statement that said proceeding with any clinical use of germline editing remains irresponsible at this time.

The committee recommended an independent assessment to verify He's claim of the birth of gene-edited babies, and claimed that his procedures have flaws, including inadequate medical support.

Newspaper headline: Gene-editing team on hold


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