Designer Babies: The Good and the Bad

The Pros of Designer Babies

"Imagine the reaction there would be if organ transplantation were prohibited because it is 'unnatural' -- though that is what some people called for when transplantation was a medical novelty. It is hard to see how the replacement of a defective gene is any less 'natural' than the replacement of a defective organ. Indeed, the major difference is the entirely beneficial one that medical intervention need occur only once around the time of conception, and the benefits would be inherited by the child and its descendants." -- Dr. Roger Gosden.

Dr. Roger Gosden is a scientist who is known globally for his work with reproductive biology and medical treatments for infertility. He has published many volumes on the studies of birth defects, the human egg, and fertility preservation. In this quote, he defines the basic reasons for "selecting" a child's genes and characteristics, and the lack of a difference in replacing an organ and replacing a gene. Replacement of a defective gene would be done after the egg has been fertilized in a test tube, instead of being fertilized in the mother's body. This technique is known as IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, and allows for the sex of the baby to be determined. These children are more commonly referred to as Designer Babies.

 How can IVF be helpful?

 Many genetic disorders are caused by mutations in either the X or Y-chromosomes. If a certain genetic disease is only passed down to males in the family, the parents may want to avoid having a male child in order to prevent this disease from continuing in the family.

The benefits of this medical intervention are boundless. It would allow a family to virtually eradicate a genetic disease in only a few generations. Muscular Dystrophy is an excellent example, and a great subject for PGD.. Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a group of genetic and hereditary (see picture left for gene flow pattern) muscle diseases that weaken the muscles of the body, sometimes very severely. If two parents decide to use either IFV or PGD, doctors can test each of the eggs for the gene for MD. If they find an egg that does not carry the gene, they can implant it and reduce the chances for this disease greatly. This also means less money will be spent in hospitals for medical treatments needed for a sick child in the future.

     Designer babies may also be created to help another in need. Parents may have a child suffering from a disease and in need of an organ or blood transplant. Imagine you have a child suffering from Leukemia, a cancer of the blood/bone marrow. He needs a bone marrow donation, or he will die young. You and your husband/wife are not matches for his bone marrow. You are, however, able to have another child. Through designer babies, they could create a perfect match for your child's blood, bone marrow, or other organ.

     A circumstance like this occurred 2002, in the UK. The Hashmi family had a child with a rare blood disorder, and needed a bone marrow transplant desperately. The Hashmis used PGD to screen the mother's embryos in hopes that they would have an egg free from the disorder and who could donate tissue to its sibling. The CORE (Comment On Reproductive Ethics) challenged the decision made by a previous court that the Hashmis could use this treatment. After months of debate over the ethics of the situation, the court determined that the Hashmis could continue treatment because of its important medical value.

     Genetic screening on embryos has potential to wipe out genetic disease by virtually removing the alleles from such disorders. When it is used in correct form, for medical treatment, children born n the future have the potentially to be purely "healthy" and carry no signs of genetic disease. The implications of this are vast are infinite for the human world, and the world of science.

     What would you do if you had the choice?