Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Facts and Ethical issues of designer babies

What is a designer baby you may ask? It is defined as 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. Through gene therapy, designer babies are created. Gene therapy is the insertion of genes into a person's cells. Successful therapy causes the inserted genes to become part of the cell's genome, and give the cell a new or different characteristic. The technology used is Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and is an expensive procedure. People use this PGD to avoid passing on a disease to their child by having a collection of embryos created for them by IVF. Some also use this new technology to choose the gender of their child. Parents are given a range of embryos to choose from, for possible diseases and gender. These embryos are grown to the eight-cell stage, at which one or two cells are removed and checked for genetic variants associated with the disease. Only embryos lacking these variants are introduced into the womb.

Despite the benefits of designer babies, there are many ethical issues that have to be taken into consideration. Firstly, there is a high possibility in the future, that with new improving technology, parents would also be able to choose the cosmetic appearances of their child. For example deciding if the child should be tall, have blue eyes or blonde hair. Since PGD is supposedly used to prevent or treat diseases, a question can be asked: Is there a moral distinction between treating or preventing disease and enhancing traits? Some say that prevention of disease is justifiable while enhancement is not. However, the problem is that it is difficult to make the prevention-enhancement distinction. It is hard to find definitions of disease suitable to serve as a moral guideline for genetic technologies. The definition of disease may vary according to the individual. For example, social constructivists consider diseases to be states to which society takes a negative attitude. Cancer fits this description perfectly, but some may also say homosexuality is a disease. The problem with this way of defining disease is that people may want to undergo the PGD for almost any reason that they feel is a disease that may be passed genetically. It is difficult to draw a clear line between preventing a disease and enhancing. Hence, the whole Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis should be banned in the first place to avoid such gray areas and complications.

Another issue would be the long term effects of such designer babies and if they are entirely safe. This PGD technology is still fairly new in the world and no one would know what might happen to these designer babies 10 or 20 years down the road. Would they still be living healthily like a normal human being? Or would they start to have problems with their genetic material which may cause death? No one would dare have a definite answer to these questions. Although such things may have been done on animals, no matter how alike humans may be to animals, there is still a difference. This might cause the child to suffer as he/she grows up and may even endanger a life. In order not to put too many lives to danger, to risk this new technology, the best solution would be to have only 1 or 2 such designer babies and closely monitor them as they grow. Only when there are no negative symptoms and impact in the long run then should this Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis be allowed.

Also, since the gender of the child can be chosen with the invention of PGD, would society have gender imbalance in the future? Currently there are still countries and societies who have a gender preference. For example, some Chinese believe that boys are better as they are smarter and can earn a living for the family in the future while girls are good for nothings and are meant to live at home to due household chores. In such cases, as gender can be chosen, most would choose to have only boys, resulting in imbalance of gender in the society and even sex discrimination. Also, it makes it more difficult to get rid of the gender-role stereotypes that are still prevalent in the mindsets of certain societies. It will also result in a difficulty in ensuring the continual of species as there aren't enough females for the males to reproduce with.

Another ethical issue that can be raised would be: is this actually playing God? If you look at things in a religious perspective, children are a gift from God and how they are to look like is not under their control. So, if a parent chooses the gender and in the future perhaps the external features of the child, they are playing God. Also, the parents do not have the right in defining what is considered to be pretty or acceptable. Does it mean that tall, dark black hair and brown eyes are beautiful and others are not? This may lead to a stereotype of beauty. Hence, even if PGD is allowed, it ought to be only used to prevent diseases, not for choosing cosmetic appearances.

One may also ask, what happens to designer babies that turn out wrong due to certain errors in the whole genetic procedure should such a thing occur? Also, since there are a range of embryos that parents can choose from, for possible diseases and gender, what would happen to those embryos that no one chooses? Do they just get destroyed and "killed"? Isn't that equivalent to murdering and killing a live, depriving that soul from living? So is it morally acceptable? No. Killing is not right which is why murderers have to go jail as a punishment for killing. The choosing of embryos ought not to be allowed so as to prevent embryos from being left behind, being rejected.

Think about it, will such genetic-enhancement or genetic-modification lead to a discriminatory society? For example, the movie "Gattaca" depicts a future in which genetically enhanced people take the lead, viewing unenhanced people as fit only to clean up after them. Will this happen in reality if PGD is allowed for genetic enhancement? It is highly possible. Designer babies may get more and more common among the rich, since this procedure is highly expensive. As such, not everyone is able to afford this "luxury". By being able to choose the genetic material they want to include in their children, people are trying to construct humans that are genetically superior to others. For those who have no means of affording this technology, it also spells doom for them. Their children would be discriminated and considered as outcasts of society as they are not as beautiful or as smart as those who are genetically modified. This great disparity in society would further cause extra social problems that would not have resulted in the first place, if designer babies were not allowed. Hence, the use of PGD should be banned in order to avoid problems of social discrimination.



Blogger ;) said...

Wow I think that's an amazing stand towards designer babies and I also
Think That you have the right questions that should be asked in a socity like
Ours sooo good job!

December 8, 2011 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger jammer said...


September 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Kascey Malone said...

^idiot...You can't make that conclusion because you don't like someone's view. And even if you were right, you act of ignorance commenting on someone's sexuality...

December 4, 2013 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Alannah Raitt said...

I actually don't think there's an ethics issue in either field. I would like to design my babies cosmetic appearance just to make sure all my kids got my ginger gene. I know that's weird but I'd rather we didn't become extinct because people's "ethics" issues that don't make sense got in the way.

February 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Bosy Karim said...


genetically engineered babies

August 27, 2017 at 6:15 AM  

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