Paternal age bioethics

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Modern genetic sequencing studies have confirmed that the sperm of older men contain a greater number of de novo germline mutations than the sperm of younger men. Although most of these mutations are neutral or of minimal phenotypic impact, a minority of them present a risk to the health of future children. If demographic trends towards later fatherhood continue, this will likely lead to a more children suffering from genetic disorders. A trend of later fatherhood will accelerate the accumulation of paternal-origin de novo mutations in the gene pool, gradually reducing human fitness in the long term. These risks suggest that paternal age is of ethical importance. Children affected by de novo mutations arising from delayed fatherhood can be said to be harmed, in the sense of ‘impersonal’ harm or ‘non-comparative’ harm. Various strategies are open at societal and individual levels towards reducing deleterious paternal age effects. Options include health education to promote earlier fatherhood, incentives for young sperm donors and state-supported universal sperm banking. The latter approach would likely be of the greatest benefit and could in principle be implemented immediately. More futuristically, human germline genetic modification offers the potential to repair heritable mutational damage.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)775-779
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
    Volume41
    Issue number9
    Early online date2 Jun 2015
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2015

    Fingerprint

    Paternal Age
    Bioethics
    fatherhood
    bioethics
    Spermatozoa
    Mutation
    Gene Pool
    Inborn Genetic Diseases
    Germ-Line Mutation
    Medical Genetics
    trend
    fitness
    Health Education
    banking
    health promotion
    Motivation
    damages
    incentive
    Demography
    Tissue Donors

    Cite this

    Smith, Kevin R. / Paternal age bioethics. In: Journal of Medical Ethics. 2015 ; Vol. 41, No. 9. pp. 775-779.
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    Paternal age bioethics. / Smith, Kevin R.

    In: Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 41, No. 9, 24.08.2015, p. 775-779.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    AB - Modern genetic sequencing studies have confirmed that the sperm of older men contain a greater number of de novo germline mutations than the sperm of younger men. Although most of these mutations are neutral or of minimal phenotypic impact, a minority of them present a risk to the health of future children. If demographic trends towards later fatherhood continue, this will likely lead to a more children suffering from genetic disorders. A trend of later fatherhood will accelerate the accumulation of paternal-origin de novo mutations in the gene pool, gradually reducing human fitness in the long term. These risks suggest that paternal age is of ethical importance. Children affected by de novo mutations arising from delayed fatherhood can be said to be harmed, in the sense of ‘impersonal’ harm or ‘non-comparative’ harm. Various strategies are open at societal and individual levels towards reducing deleterious paternal age effects. Options include health education to promote earlier fatherhood, incentives for young sperm donors and state-supported universal sperm banking. The latter approach would likely be of the greatest benefit and could in principle be implemented immediately. More futuristically, human germline genetic modification offers the potential to repair heritable mutational damage.

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