Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Designer Babies

Designer babies are the next fashion trend. My baby will have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a rock solid body to complement his Einstein-like brain. Genetic testing is allowing us to take our right to have children beyond the limits of natural process. We can now pick and choose who we would like to love.

A documentary on National Geographic (yes, I'm addicted) featured an Australian couple who's son inherited a genetic abnormality that could kill him before he becomes an adult. Genetic testing comes to the rescue of this couple when they find out that they could use it to create an embryo that would be a "perfect match".. this embryo will grow into another human being from whom tissue would be removed and used to save the older son's life. Playing with nature has no small consequence. Most countries have banned this procedure, called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) for the purposes of sex selection. For those unfamiliar with PGD, here is a simple 'About PGD' blurb, courtesy of

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD is a technology that allows genetic testing of an embryo prior to implantation and before pregnancy occurs. This technology is used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF), and allows only embryos diagnosed as free of a specific genetic disease to be transferred into a woman for pregnancy. The testing is performed by removing a single cell from a 3-day old embryo and having the cell genetically screened for a specific disease.

I have to admit that I've always been fascinated with Biology as a subject in school, but never would have thought about what it means for us as a "species with spirit" so to speak. Reading the above definition instinctively gives me the shivers. The process goes:
1) Test one cell from a couple of embryos that were popped up outside the womb by sperm and ova
2) Look for genetic abnormalities in all the embryos
3) Admire, love, and shed tears of joy at the embryo that is free of disease.. and keep it of course
4) Flush the embryos that are infected with genetic disorders down the toilet

Ok, the same website offers so-called alternatives to PGD:

If you are at increased risk to have a child with a specific testable genetic disease, an alternative is to achieve a pregnancy spontaneously and have genetic testing performed during your pregnancy... Unfortunately, if the fetus is found to have the genetic disease, the options are limited to interrupting the pregnancy or continuing the pregnancy.
Options to interrupting the pregnancy are limited huh?? Ever heard of deliberate miscarriages and abortions doctor? Are advances in genetic medecine getting us into deeper moral entanglements or what. We are going way back in history and bringing back Eugenics:

One path of genetic research branched off into the shadows of social theory, and in the first quarter of the twentieth century became immensely popular as eugenics. It was presented as a mathematical science that could be used to predict the traits and behaviors of humans, and in a perfect world, to control human breeding so that people with the best genes would reproduce and thus improve the species.(Source)

To all the parents who are tempted to play with nature -- know that there are many children who have been orphaned in this world who need and want your love, security, and resources so they can lead a dignified life. The couples who claim "We are desparate for a baby boy because we have four girls already" need to reach out to the world rather than confine themselves to a test-tube. To the Australian couple who engineered a baby to save their older son -- hope it works out for you. But you'll live with the fact that your intention for having your younger child might not be accepted by either of your children as they grapple with their adult identities.

Having stated my postition quite strongly, I will nevertheless respect a general statement made by all the couples who decided to use PGD: "You might think and react different if you really find yourselves in our position." Alas, emotions of the heart and thoughts of the mind battling it out as always.


Blogger nijaz said...

What is right or wrong? Who decides? I believe in the Omnipotent. But did He not see, when he made man that one day he would be able to play with nature's course?

So either He does not exist or this is the minute part of the bigger picture and His Mysterious ways.

Wednesday, 15 March, 2006  

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