OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to explore some factors influencing perceptions of human gene therapy.
METHOD: A small qualitative study using two semi-structured interviews per participant (n = 22). The groups comprised (1) people with cystic fibrosis and members of their family (n = 9), and (2) students from a science evening class as well as lay members of the public selected from the practice list of a local general practitioner (n = 13).
RESULTS: This pilot study demonstrates support for somatic gene therapy and ambivalence about germline gene therapy. A clear distinction is drawn between therapy and enhancement, with the majority opposing gene enhancement.
CONCLUSIONS: Attitudes towards the acceptability of gene therapy are not necessarily determined by experience of, or exposure to, a genetic condition. More research is needed with the general public to determine what is perceived to be acceptable public policy in this field.