Legalliability in the human trial of baby gene-editing: A hermeneutic analysis based on China's current legal framework

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    The illegal human experimentation, which created the world's first gene-edited babies, has triggered unrest and strongly condemns around the world. Based on the existing legal framework, experimenters (as well as other relevant "involved persons and institutions") in the event of "gene-edited babies" should bear legal liabilities. In China's current law (narrow sense), there is no specific legal norm on human genetic editing experiments, so there are obvious loopholes in the overall legal order. Some administrative responsibilities are stipulated in administrative regulations, but the punishment is not rigorous, and the pertinence to individual behavior of conducting illegal experiments is insufficient. In criminal law, there are no clauses to directly deal with biotechnology crimes like gene editing and human experimentation. If the illegal human experimentation of "gene-edited babies" cannot be brought into the scope of "illegal practice of medicine" with circumstances of aggravation in explanation, the implementation of criminal responsibility for the behavior of illegal experiment will be in dilemma. In terms of civil liability, participates and "gene-edited babies" (and "gene-edited fetuses") possess the right to claim damages, but there are normative difficulties in the identification and evaluation of damage. In the future, China should "accelerate the construction of early-warning and monitoring system for scientific and technological safety", "expedite and promote relevant legislation in the field of gene editing", and adopt specialized legal norms to form a consummate responsibility mechanism, especially in moderately strengthening the rigidity of responsibility in public law and specifically clarifying the claim basis in private law.

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  • Revised:February 01,2019
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  • Online: July 09,2019
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