The Genome Project and Jewish Law

Does the genome project take imitatio dei too far--beyond imitating God, to playing God?

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Therapeutic genetic engineering and gene therapy that may result from the knowledge derived from the genome project is not a Torah violation of undermining God’s creation of the world by manipulating nature (Ramban, Leviticus 19:19). On the contrary, it is a confirmation of the creation of the world. The use of scientific knowledge to benefit mankind is biblically mandated (Ramban, Genesis 1:28). The use of such knowledge to heal illness and cure disease is also biblically allowed based on the talmudic interpretation (Baba Kamma 85a) of the phrase and heal he shall heal (Exodus 21:19), or even biblically mandated based on Maimonides’ interpretation (Mishnah Commentary, Nedarim 4:4) of the biblical obligation to restore a lost object (Deuteronomy 22:2) to include the restoration of one’s lost health. The healing of illness includes the use of genetically engineered medications such as insulin and various antibiotics. The cure of disease by gene therapy, if possible, is also sanctioned in Jewish law.

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Dr. Fred Rosner

Dr. Fred Rosner is Director of the Department of Medicine of the Mount Sinai Services at the Queens Hospital Center and Professor of Medicine at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.