Psych 30: Designer Babies and the Ethics of Fertility Technology
Science is used to support and benefit people in all areas of their lives, from understanding metabolism or sugar intake to supporting fertility of families. But science is limited, at times, in that there can be negative effects of research advancements once time passes, such as the realization of the physical deformaties caused by the morning sickness drug thalidomide. It caused babies to be born missing fingers or caused abnormal facial features. It was an unknown outcome, as are other outcomes that come from research, with time.
- Use of Stem Cells in Medicine: You watched the documentary Designer Babies to understand the control scientists now have related to the field of fertility. There are ethical questions to consider related to this, though, along with other topics of consideration. One example if the use of stem cells for research in medicine. Recently, President Donald Trump, a Republican who is anti-abortion, was given a medication for his Covid-19 treatment that relies on using stems cells from human fertilized embryos. An embryo is created (the potential existence of life) but destroyed by removing the cells from it. Is there an ethics discussion to be had surrounding this? Do you think it’s ethical to create fertilized embryos if they can be used as a resource to support human medical needs and not for the development to become a baby? Who decides this? Politicians and voters?
- Eradicating Gene Mutations: Or what about the types of mutations in genes that could possibly be removed from global societies: blindness, dwarfism, autism, etc? Are some undesirable and societies may decide to spend money to prevent them, which saves money in health care costs down the road, or is that an indignity to the content lives lived by people with these conditions? Consider Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder. Thirty years ago, when there was less superior technology in testing prior to birth, there were more children/adults with Down Syndrome in Canadian society and they integrated well into our schools and work places. Today in Canada, the rate of birth for Down Syndrome is down significantly, directly linked with the ability to diagnose early in a pregnancy and an assumption of termination on the part of some medical providers. In other countries, like Iceland, Denmark, and France, nearly all Down Syndrome fetuses are aborted. Consider – why the difference in social attitude and habits between the countries without and with babies with this disorder?Other topics worth considering/researching:
- Changes to the average age of women having their first child – today, many more women wait until after their careers are started to have families
- Health care provided by provinces supports/pays for fertility treatment for women within their province – should there be a cut-off age since procedures after a certain age are less successful?
- You can also look into the falling male fertility rates globally. Every year, the World Health Organization has to drop the average testosterone rate, because it continues to decline.
- Some countries and even provinces in Canada restrict a pregnant mother’s ability to know their baby’s gender prior to birth, in an effort to curb/inhibit selective abortion for female babies. For example, it has been discussed to create a National policy to not reveal a baby gender to an expectant mother prior to 30 weeks gestation, which is past a point of an “unquestioned abortion”. Ethical pros and cons of this?
- Female Infanticide studied globally. You could research to learn which countries have the higher rates of female babies aborted, such as China after its “One Child” policy, where families want their one child to be male instead of female. What have been the repercussions and what is the reasoning for it in that country?
- Others: suggestions?