Margaret Foster Riley

CRISPR Creations and Human Rights

Law & Ethics of Human Rights

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations


When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, the definition of human was uncontroversial. It included all members of homo sapiens regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or religion and it did not include animals. In the decades since then, who — or what — should be included in that definition has become less clear. Recently some scholars have argued that some animals should be accorded human rights of liberty and equality. This paper considers what characteristics and qualities should be required for a bearer of human rights. To do that, the paper examines beings who might occupy the space between animals and homo sapiens — a de-extincted Neanderthal or a “humanzee,” — both of which are at least theoretically possible with new technology. It concludes that the cognitive and moral abilities to be both a beneficiary and a contributor to a human polity is a central part of being a bearer of human rights in this context. It determines that a humanzee, and possibly a de-extincted Neanderthal, might have those capabilities. The best way to respect such human rights in those beings would be not to create them.


Margaret Foster Riley, CRISPR Creations and Human Rights, 11 Law & Ethics of Human Rights 225–252 (2017).

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