Designer Babies

Doctors enlisted to curb "sex-selection&q...

The waiting room has just two couples in it. They are slightly nervous, self-conscious, avoiding eye contact with each other. The room is dimly lit and resembles a sterile, designer living room. Magazines are in carved racks on one wall as well as stacked perfectly, fan style in threes, on a glass-topped side table. A stand in the corner holds a carafe, the card written in black calligraphy tells the couples it’s “lemon and strawberry infused water”.

Nothing in the room suggests that this is where couples go to pick out their babies. Their very own designer babies. The first decision will be on sex– male or female? But then it moves on: Will it be black hair or blonde? Blue eyed or Brown? Tall or short? Art or sports?

Smart or ….no that one’s easy! The couple smiles at each other, their eyes communicating the message — We don’t want any dumb kids!

This is not a brave new world. This is today. Couples are increasingly able to pick what they want, when they want it. Consider this advertisement from the leading fertility group around sex selection:

Recognized by ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, Reuters, and United Press International News Services as among “THE” worldwide leaders in gender selection technology.

By examining the genetic makeup of embryos, we can virtually guarantee* your next child will be the sex of your choice.

  • Leaders in Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
  • Among the most successful gender-selection programs anywhere
  • Screening for over 400 hereditary diseases
  • Critical procedures performed by MD and PhD specialists
  • Available to nearly all patients (not just those with genetic disorders)
  • Now combinable with Microsort sperm sorting at patient request
  • Featured on 60 Minutes, CNN, ABC, NBC, Newsweek, Time and more

In 2009 an article titled “Designer Babies: Ethical? Inevitable?” told of a woman who had applied embryo screening on eleven 3-day old embryos to determine which one would be the most likely to be disease free. She then had that one implanted in her uterus.

At surface this can, perhaps, seem empowering. What parent would ever choose for their children to have a disease? We weep over our children’s minor difficulties, like not being invited to a birthday party, let alone those big things like diabetes and leukemia. One professor claims this is just “Responsible Parenting*”.

But there is a dark side to this. As humans we are prone to extremes – and while many may choose to use this technology just to avoid disease, others would abuse.

Because that’s how we are.

In that same article Richard Hayes, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, says this:

“If misapplied, [these technologies] would exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce existing modes of discrimination … the development and commercial marketing of human genetic modification would likely spark a techno-eugenic rat-race,….”Even parents opposed to manipulating their children’s genes would feel compelled to participate in this race, lest their offspring be left behind.”

While I’d like to assume the best of this race called ‘Human’, I see too much evidence that we would modify to our own detriment, and face the unforeseen consequences of our choices.

Equally troubling is that the developing world continues to face enormous problems with infant mortality and morbidity as well as child malnutrition, even as this side of the ocean dabbles in extreme technologies to produce a “Super Race”.

My post from yesterday received a variety of comments, and I appreciated all the perspectives brought into the discussion – one of the things that didn’t come into the discussion was our increasing ability to control all of life – from conception to sex selection to gender reveal to when we die.

This discussion goes far beyond designer babies – but designer babies are one more spoke in this wheel of control.

What do you think? And are all these even related or am I off base? Continue the discussion with me through the comments!

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