Genetics vs Technetics

http://www.toysit.com/robo-baby/robo-baby.jpg
http://www.toysit.com/robo-baby/robo-baby.jpg

When speaking of beauty, usually it is most apparent when it is from within. Beauty is genuine, true and natural. The ‘beauty’ in beauty is that nobody is the same. Everybody has a different natural beauty from within; everybody’s inner beauty is portrayed differently from the looks of the exterior. While many of us are lucky enough not to have to worry about our exterior, millions of babies around the world endureconditions such as obesity, Down-syndrome, and leukemia. Millions of other babies deal with internal struggles such as schizophrenia, mental retardations, and blood problems. While they are still beautiful from within, what would happen if doctors could mutate those defective genes so the child would not have to live with it? In the pure usage of technology to make life much easier for humans with such diseases, the technology couldn’t do that without also advancing to a point where parents could ‘design’ their child: looks, intelligence and personality.

In the late 1900’s, thoughts of cloning and altering genetic material were already influencing many scientists and doctor’s stance on ethics. In 1996 Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned (BBC News).[1] Dolly only lived six years, but since then the question of cloning has only gotten more complicated. In October of 2000, a baby human boy was created to save his six-year old sister’s life. She had a bone marrow deficiency disorder and needed an exact match of tissue so she could have a bone marrow transplant. This was extremely controversial and raised questions such as “was the baby boy really wanted or merely created as a medical commodity to save his sister (BBC World News)?” What about the child? It probably would be a little nerve racking to always have a feeling you were only created to keep your sibling alive. Talk about sibling rivalry! All these events have led up to now even a more complicated issue questioning the use of science in an ethical sense. If the technology is available, should parents have the ability to “design” their own baby?

While the ability to design a child seems like a ‘far reach’ into the future for many, it isn’t as far of a reach as one might suspect. Of course there are two sides to every story; one side thinks it is simply outrageous not to take advantage of the technological advancements to design the perfect child, free of disease and filled with great qualities. The other side thinks it is simply immoral and wrong to have technology play any role in the genetic outcome of a child. While both sides have their points, there is no doubt technology would be crossing the fine line of nature. The technological use to design a baby should only be accessible to parents who meet certain standards for medical uses only. For instance, if a couple has a history of a certain mutated gene causing a disease or a type of cancer and has no choice, then technology should be considered. To play with nature is simply wrong. One of the reasons why this world is so beautiful is because there is so much diversity and brilliance in each individual. A big problem with an issue like this is who sets the standards for a parent to qualify for a designer baby? A resident in the UK takes a similar stance.

I can fully understand why there are cases of parents wanting to pick and choose features in a child, because it is possible...On the other hand, the technology is available and so there has to be legislation governing its use. Each case should be judged on an individual basis. I am sure that most parents agree, you will do whatever it takes to protect/save your child, and there is nothing new about that mentality. I think the bigger picture here is who decides one way or another (Ignaya, BBC NEWS)?

At the moment we can screen human embryos using In Vitro Fertilization (IFV-ET) to choose only those embryos without the unwanted genes. While this can be an effective way to help prevent harmful diseases, using this to create the perfect child is completely wrong. It is wrong to add new artificial genes, or take away other genes for selfish purposes. These genetic changes will be permanent and be contained in every single cell of the created individual (Carolyn R. Kaplan, IFV).

While the majority of parents would create the most capable babies possible, there is a small minority who is trying to deliberately create defects in their children. In November of 2002, a deaf lesbian couple from Maryland, Sharon Duchesneau and Candace McCullough, gave birth to a baby boy named Gauvin Hughes McCullough. Sharon and Candace were trying to create a child who was also deaf to pass on their lifestyle. They successfully achieved this by picking a sperm donor who had a strong history of deafness in his family. Sharon and Candace have chosen to withhold the use of hearing aids from him (Wendy Mcelroy, Enter Stage Right).” Francis Murphy, chairman of the British Deaf Association, said: “If choice of embryos for implantation is to be given to citizens in general, and if hearing and other people are allowed to choose embryos that will be ‘like them’, sharing the same characteristics, language and culture, then we believe that deaf people should have the same right (Sarah-Kate Templeton, Times Online).” If this was about rights then maybe that would be the case. It is easy to confuse what is nature’s way when faced with the controversial aspects of technology. However, this couple has effectively chosen to prioritize the selfish act of wanting what is best for them, over the burden they placed on their son.

Sharon and Candace have gotten a lot of heat for their decision to create a deaf child. When the president of the Family Research Council, Ken Connor, heard about this he was extremely opposed to the couple’s decision and even went to the extent of saying, “To intentionally give a child a disability,… is incredibly selfish…This reduces the father to a mere inseminator, raises the prospects of donor shopping and designer genes, and turns a baby into a trophy (Matt Pyeatt).” The majority of deaf people do not classify themselves as disabled, therefore there is no need to go into the genetic make-up of a person and correct deafness. It isn’t like deaf people can’t live life to its fullest potential. If there is a problem that isn’t life threatening, then live with it. Deafness is not a life threatening characteristic; therefore there is absolutely no reason to mutate the human genome for that trait. Just like beauty, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Although creating a deaf child may seem far from perfect to many, Sharon and Candice represent the danger of this technology if it advances any further. Parents have no right to choose which genetic characteristics are best for their children. By doing so, they are also potentially choosing characterizes for their children’s children, and all other future generations to come. Will the children react against the unnatural characteristics their parents have chosen for them?

Being able to pick out certain characteristics or traits isn’t for humans to tamper with. While I understand that it is two people’s choice to have a baby, it isn’t those two people’s choice to choose what kind of baby. It is not natural to pick characteristics; humanity is so beautiful because nobody is perfect. If people wanted the perfect child why not just get a robot who says and does the right things at the right times? This incorrect usage of this technology would create generations of super-humans who look down on those without genetic enhancement. “Even today people who are born with disabilities face intolerance. Will discrimination against people already born with disabilities increase (Bionet)?” If you make a child super smart and super everything that you always wanted to be, there would be no natural connection because the child wouldn’t be a combination of the two mates. Instead, the child would be the combination of what two mates picked off of some sort of child template.

When you fall in love with somebody, you think that person is different than everybody else; unique and distinguishable in every way. Humans subconsciously pick a mate whose characteristics they would like to see in offspring. Technically, in this way, humans are already picking their offspring by choosing their mate.

Love is supposed to be unconditional. Parents should love their child the way it is. If “picking” the perfect child started becoming the “norm,” nobody would ever be satisfied because there would have always had the option to “pick” a different or better characteristic. Love is accepting, but how can one be accepting if there is a certain standard of what “perfect” or acceptable is? Nobody can accept anything if everything is perfect. Obviously there would still be large amounts of diversity in the human population because not everybody would be able to have that option available to them, because of financial reasons. This process would be very expensive, therefore helping create a huge imbalance between the poor and the rich.

When it comes to medical reasons this would just be a more exact and measured way of curing disease. What difference is there if they find a gene that fights cancer and they inject it to the mutated gene than a drug company coming up with a pharmacological cure for cancer? Or what's the difference between suppressing the gene that causes diabetes to sentencing someone to insulin shots for life, the only difference is avoiding putting someone on drugs for life. This is exactly why this technology should only be used for health purposes only. When the science is available, prospective parents should not have the ability to “design” specific traits in their babies unless the baby is faced with a life-threatening disease. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the eye of technology.

Works Consulted

"Baby Created to Save Older Sister." BBC News. 2000. BBC World News. 26 Jan. 2008  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/954408.stm>.

Conway, Susan C., Carolyn R. Kaplan, Mark Perloe, and Michael J. Tucker. "In Vitro Fertilization (IFV-ET)." Georgia Reproductive Specialists. 2005. 23 Feb. 2008 <http://www.ivf.com/team.html>.

"Design a Baby?" Bionet. 2002. European Commission. 23 Feb. 2008 <http://www.bionetonline.org/English/about.htm>.

"Government Condemns Human Cloning." BBC News (1997).

Mcelroy, Wendy. "Victims From Birth." Enter Stage Right. 15 Apr. 2002. 27 Jan. 2008 <http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/0402/0402victim.htm>.

Pyeatt, Matt. "Deaf Lesbians Criticized for Efforts to Create Deaf Child." CNS News. 2 Apr. 2002. Cybercast News Service. 27 Jan. 2008 <http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=/Culture/archive/200204/CUL20020402a.html>.

"Should Parents Be Able to Design Their Own Babies?" BBC News. 2000. Talking Point. 26 Jan. 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/955834.stm>.

Templeton, Sarah-Kate. "Deaf Demand Right for Designer Deaf Children." Times Online. 23 Dec. 2007. 27 Jan. 2008         <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article3087367.ece>.



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