Psych 30 Who’s Afraid of Designer Babies – ethics
Fertility technology has created many opportunities and uses for this type of scientific ability, but with those advancements also come more ethical questions to consider.
The following PDF article is a Teacher’s Guide for an Australian documentary with a similar name and focus as the documentary we watched in class. You can use it to consider some of the ethical questions posed in the PDF related to issues such as:
- the ethics of keeping or removing genetically inherited characteristics in embryos before implantation
- the ethics of creating children via IVF that have the same genetically inherited disorder as another of their children, so that the second sibling will be a genetic match and can donate tissue/blood to the sibling
- the ethical problems made when you understand the low rate of success in using IVF treatments; many fertilized embryos created (is this the start of “life”) and used but that do not implant.
- Or the ethical issue with the extra fertilized embryos that remain frozen – maybe donated or given to medical science for stem cell use
- the ethical issue of stem cell use for medical purposes and studies; example Regeneron, the Covid19 treatment medication, uses stem cells from abandoned fertilized embryos which kills the potential of that embryo
- the ethical issue of eugenics – the process of manipulating who can reproduce, removing less desirable traits from society through different means, including forced sterilization of groups of people OR removing genetically inherited characteristics from being selected for implantation such as dwarfism or Down Syndrome. The Nazis carried out eugenics experiments with humans in their effort to create a “Master Race” – are designer babies as sinister?
- the ethical issue of when Life begins. If some believe it begins with fertilization, the potential for human life, then anything done with an embryo is as morally wrong as abortion.
Here is a list of pros and cons related to the issues from the documentary developed by a previous group of Psych 30 students. Compare your own list to these points, if it helps you develop more of your thoughts on the topic.
Positives of Designer Babies:
- selecting a particular sex
- preventing sex-linked diseases (hemophilia is more prevalent in males)
- preventing genetic diseases or disorders (Down Syndrome)
- choosing their capabilities (potential to choose an embryo with strong intelligence or athleticism)
- choosing skin colour (for an interracial couple)
- undesirable traits can be avoided
- some harmful personality traits or looks (anxiety, depression, cleft palate)
- avoiding disabilities like Dwarfism
- more satisfied parents, after paying high fees for the treatments
- balance out the gender of society (more males miscarried than females; more females selectively aborted by some cultural groups)
- Nearly twice as many boy babies are conceived as girls, but they are much more likely to miscarry, and by birth, the ratio is roughly 105 boys to 100 girls. WSJ Article
- PGD: pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
Negatives of Designer Babies:
- unethical practice – the outcome and uniqueness of a baby should remain natural (God-planned)
- no going back – may not be satisfied with your results. Treating fetuses/babies as a product of differing values.
- costs so much – that type of financial ability is not available for all people or societies (for the rich only, leaving out whole countries)
- could result, eventually, in two classes of people globally
- products bought like accessories to a desired lifestyle
- some parents want “natural” offspring: including disabilities that may arise like blindness or imperfections
- the male to female ratio could be radically changed by this selective practice resulting in 5 years, 12 years, 21 years later big societal differences. What happens to the balance of a society: not enough females to date or marry to create families?
- naturally designed people versus genetically designed people
- long term results are unknown
- biodiversity affected – the race balance may be disrupted