In November 2018, the announcement that genetically edited human embryos had been used for reproductive purposes caused international uproar; many observers argued that editing the human germline was unethical, particularly given the early stage of the science and the absence of appropriate oversight. We provide an overview of the implications of these events, focusing on the relevant ethical considerations for physicians addressing patient questions and concerns. The editing of the human germline for reproductive purposes should be understood against an historic backdrop of clinical research in assisted reproduction, as well as other exemplars of translational investigation. An important question raised by our growing capacity to genetically alter human embryos is how to understand the implicit social contract between science and society. To ensure that translational research continues to enjoy the historic trust placed in scientists and research organizations, it is critical that scientific and health care institutions proactively engage governments, patient advocacy organizations, and the general public in the formation of policies that guide gene editing.
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