Now Possible to Design Your Own Baby
Once again, the stuff of science fiction has not only arrived but has been put into action with success. This time, it is being able to design your own baby. The science is called PGD or Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and involves careful selection of embryos for gene faults.
So how does this work?
Well the Oxford English Dictionary tells us:
“a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics".
We have finally come to the times where we may order a blue-eyed, blonde haired dark/light skinned baby with no defects whatsoever - including the absence of teenage acne.
Doctor Steinberg who pioneered IVF in the 1970s has this to say to his prospective patients on the clinic's web site:
"Not all patients will qualify for these tests and we make NO guarantees as to 'perfect prediction' of things such as eye colour or hair colour,"
Steinberg claims that his clinic will offer this service only to those already having genetic screening for abnormal chromosome conditions.
As would be expected, someone has already raised ethical questions.
Dr. Gillian Lockwood who is a U.K. fertility expert and member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' ethics commitee.
"If it gets to the point where we can decide which gene or combination of genes are responsible for blue eyes or blonde hair, what are you going to do with all those other embryos that turn out like me to be ginger with green eyes?"
Josphine Quintavalle of "Comment on Reproductive Ethics" says:
"This is the inevitable slippery slope of a fertility process which results in many more embryos being created than can be implanted. Choices will always have to be made. Do you choose octuplets or the ones with the prettiest noses?"
One high-profile case, is that of the Hashmi family who fought and finally won a torrid court battle with Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE). They already have one child with a rare blood disorder awaiting a bone marrow transplant.
Sara Nathan of the HFEA ethics committee, is concerned with sex selection though she also acknowledges it could be useful with diseases such as haemophilia (which is sex-linked,) where PGD is used to ensure that the offending gene is not present in female embryos.
The science is nothing new, it just hasn't been publicized as much. PGD seems to have crept up on us, even as many of us are still struggling to form our views on IVF.
PGD was bound to happen no matter what our own personal opinions. Scientific research into embryos would not have ended with IVF.
Because of China's One Child Policy, (which ends next year,) many Chinese families have secretly dealt with it their own way. They drown their female babies in favor of boys. While effective, it breaks this reporter's heart to think of yet another barbaric act in this world.
My imagination conjures up a nation of men with a pool of say 10,000 women donating their eggs and never laying eyes on the baby's father. Knowing China and their non-existent policies on human suffering - it wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Cloning is already an alternative method.
Think for a minute: You might be sipping away at a coffee house when you see Angelina Jolie sit down with Brad Pitt (insert anyone else you desire). When they leave, you scour their chairs and table for hairs and their cups for saliva. Retrieve them and your on your way to having a beautiful baby.
There is so much controversy over these two topics that it fills web pages with professional arguments and lay-man opinions.
Here are some questions for you to mull over:
- Even if the technologies are safe, can they be morally defended?
- Are you for or against Designer Babies? Why?
- If you are against them, would it change your mind if you could pass on a deadly disease or defect during conception?
- It's possible that in the not too distant future, athleticism, shyness and and a talent in a particular area could be introduced into a genome - how do you feel about this science both professionally and morally?
- Should the public have a say whether or not science in this direction continues?
- Can you imagine a world filled with genetically modified human beings?
The Fertility Institute
100% Sex Selection, Family Balancing and Genetic Embryo Screening
China's One Child Policy
by Matt Rosenberg
Debating Designer Babies
by Ellie Lee
Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations
by Nicholas Agar
by Michael D. Lemonick; Bjerklie and Alice Park/New York and Dick Thompson/Washington