Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stakeholders in Designer Babies

With the issue of designer babies becoming increasingly prominent each day, the possibilities and consequences have been exposed. At the same time, it has come to affect a wider pool of people – not only the parents and babies involved, but also society, medical or research institutions, and the government. As such, I feel that the four main stakeholders here are the babies, their parents, the government, and the research or medical institutions.

Firstly, babies, as the targets of the PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), are the most affected stakeholders. As embryos, they would have been unable to make their own choices, or give autonomous consent to the decisions their parents are making. The gender or trait assigned to them may not be what they desire. There is also a possibility that the baby grows up to disapprove of these human genetic engineering methods, by which he/she has also been created. Conversely, there may also be babies that have benefited greatly and thus approve of all that has been done. In that case, the babies would still have to deal with these issues for an entire lifetime.

The second stakeholder would be the parents. To most Asian parents, the ability to change their children’s gender is a matter of high importance – continuing the family name, or having a boy, is seen as a responsibility to the family. According to an online poll, most American families have been shown to prefer having males as the firstborn. Additionally, removing undesirable traits or inserting desirable traits into the child’s DNA is also important to parents, as parents usually want the best for their children. However, in the case that the PGD turns out to be unsuccessful, the parents, after investing a great amount of money into the treatment, would have to deal with the consequences themselves. There is after all, no absolute guarantee in the success of the PGD.

The third stakeholder is the government. The government is accountable for all the decision making in the country, and holds the power to rule for or against PGD. Furthermore, no matter what view the government expresses upon this issue, if there are positive impacts, the government will get the credit, but if there are negative impacts, the government would have to bear the blame. At the same time, in order to be accountable to the public, the government would also have to provide viable solutions to rectify the negative impacts. Moreover, in the case that the government allows PGD to continue in the country, it will also be expected to provide government funding for the research.

This leads me to the last stakeholder – research and medical institutes. Without government approval, these research and medical institutes may not even be able to continue their work. For example, according to a January issue of the Time Magazine, the Bush Administration had banned stem cell research, and research institutes had to move to other countries where their work was approved of. This of course, slowed research development, until the ban was lifted by President Obama. As of today, most governments have not approved of designer babies. However, in the case that government approval has been provided, successful researchers can also gain a great deal of fame and credit. Additionally, medical institutes offering PGD stand to become highly sought-after by parents, and as this treatment is expensive, this is a potentially profitable trade for them.

Stakeholders are people who play a pivotal role, and stand to either gain a lot, or lose a lot. The human race has never experienced the possible impacts of designer babies, thus there are still many grey areas – no one can say for sure whether the negative impacts would outweigh the positive, or vice versa. Regardless of the outcome, the babies, parents, government and research or medical institutes are the people that will be most impacted, and hence, they are the four main stakeholders in this issue.



Blogger Jeremy Lent said...

Thoughtful comments on a big emerging issue... You may be interested in my recently published novel, Requiem of the Human Soul, in which the central theme is the impact of human genetic engineering on our global future as well as our "human soul". You can find out more at, which also examines "the slippery slope to designer humans" as well as selected future articles over the next hundred years highlighting moments in the transition from unenhanced humans to a world of "d-humans."

June 16, 2009 at 3:51 AM  

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