Saturday, 10 January 2009

Selected Baby Reopens Debate

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis or embryo screening is the business of doctors and parents selecting the embryos to be implanted in the womb which on first glance is a horrific proposition and the idea is strongly criticised for parents creating designer babies.
Where the argument against loses some impetus is when a story like that of the baby girl born today who was genetically selected to be free of a certain breast cancer gene that had been inherent in her family.
The Medical Director of the University College where the embryo screening process was performed said "The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted this family for generations" and it is hard to disagree with him, what parent would want to force their child to gamble growing up with a 85% chance of developing breast cancer because of this family gene when there is a route available to eliminate it.
On the face of it, this development sounds like a no-brainer. Here we have the capability to eliminate all kinds of inherited diseases and it would be immoral to not utilise it but the large pink elephant in the room is the opening of the door to a world of nightmarish possibilities of parents 'designing' their children.
If embryos can be selected to be free of harmful genes such as in this case, they could just as easily screen for particular genetic traits that parents desire and turn up at the procedure with a wish list of physical and mental traits. There is also the possibility of parents with handicaps wanting their children to have the same impairment such as deafness and even the nightmare scenario of a society divided between an elite super race of genetically selected people and an underclass who are at the mercy of their family genes.
The implications of that scenario are horrendous and is the reason why i tentatively remain opposed to embryo screening but it would not be easy for me to justify it to the parent of a child with a genetic disorder which could have been prevented.


Cody Bones said...

Sorry Lucy, as a parent I am going to respectfully disagree. ANYTHING I can do to make sure my kids are healthy is of paramount importance i.e. see Ayn Rand, the power of the individual.

Lucy said...

It is one of those topics Cody where i completely understand the opposite argument and have much sympathy with it. If it was just for medical reasons then great but i can see a greater social impact with two classes of people which worries me.

Cheezy said...

I think the idea of designer babies is great. Could you design one that doesn't scream all night or crap on the carpet?

Lucy said...

There is an invention called nappies that stops babies crapping on the carpet Cheezy. Nothing you can do about them screaming all night though, apart from a tot of vodka in their evening bottle.