Although the discussion on possibilities and pitfalls of genome editing is ever present, limited qualitative data on the attitudes of students, who will come into contact with this technology within a social and professional context, is available. The attitude of 97 medical students and 103 students of other subjects from Hannover and Oldenburg, Germany, was analyzed in winter 2017/18. For this purpose, two dilemmas on somatic and germline genome editing concerning familial leukemia were developed. After reading the dilemmas, the students filled out a paper-and-pencil test with five open questions. The qualitative evaluation of the answers was carried by a deductive-inductive procedure of content analysis. There was a high approval for the use of somatic genome editing. When it came to germline genome editing, concerns were raised regarding enhancement, interventions in nature, and loss of uniqueness. The students recognized that somatic genome editing and germline genome editing prove different ethical challenges and need to be judged separately. Many students expressed not feeling fully informed. The results of this project show the importance of educating the public about the possibilities, limitations, and risks of somatic and germline genome editing. We recommend that this should already be addressed in schools in order to optimally prepare students and adults for participation in public discourse. Especially for patients affected by genetic diseases, it is of great importance that the treating physicians and geneticists are sufficiently informed about the method of genome editing to ensure good counseling.
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