Designer Babies: a benefit or a threat?
by ptrack on September 12, 2016 - 11:00pm
The fact is we have been leading up to designer babies for a long time now and as science becomes more and more advanced, we are confronted with increasingly complex ethical questions.
Back in 1996 a family who wanted to have a girl after having had two boys, selected their embryo to be sure they would have a girl. For years now we have had technology that allows us to check if babies have malformations either with embryo screening techniques used in invitro fertilization, or amniocentesis in the case of natural births. Statistics show that 92% of people who find out their child has downs syndrome will choose to abort the baby. When it comes to sperm donors, one can even chose the donor with the characteristics that suit them best. These are all forms of designing babies.
In more recent times however, there have been developments in science that will allow us to make specific genetic alterations. This is done by replacing or erasing part of DNA strands. This new technology is called CRISPR and it is essentially a cellular scalpel in where small enzymes cut out the unwanted genomes. This has already been used successfully to cut out the gene mutation that lead to HIV and sickle cell anemia. While it is still in its infancy (pun intended), scientists seems to be very confident that the technology will soon be precise enough to be viable. This means that we will soon be faced with the reality of true designer babies, where anything may be possible. This means that it is quite possible, that one day you could be looking at a menu choosing the characteristics of your first born child as if you were deciding what to order at restaurant. Are you comfortable with this idea?
There are some clearly positive aspects to being able to genetically modify humans. So many actually, that it could change the world as we know it today. We could be disease free. We could live hundreds of years longer, we could be stronger and smarter which would lead to the possibility of even more discoveries to the benefit of the human race. We could figure out a way to live in space, to modify our bodies to be able to withstand space travel… the possibilities are endless.
However, there are possible negative aspects that could also develop as we toy with the most natural thing in human life, the process of reproduction. Some people find the very act of interfering with human reproduction, tampering with the will of nature, to be morally questionable. In fact the ability to custom-order your child seems closer to an act of consumerism, like buying a new car to suit your own needs and wants. Will children simply become an accessory to complement their parents’s sense of style? Additionally, this could lead over time to a lack of diversity if the same traits were chosen over and over again. in fact this could be quite detrimental to the evolution of the human race which has historically thrived on diversity. Finally, like anything, having a designer baby would not be cheap, just like in-vitro fertilization. This could lead to the human race being even more divided and unequal than it already is. With only wealthy people being able to afford these genetic modifications, the divide between the rich and the poor would grow exponentially, as the rich managed to not only eliminate any illnesses and abnormalities but also to improve their physical and mental traits.
I am in favour of the genetic modification of humans, for this technology has far too many benefits to be disregarded. That being said, I only support its use for health related reasons, such as eliminating cancer or HIV, because of the great benefit this brings to society. I most definitely do not support the use of this technology for non essential reasons such as choosing your child’s pretty eyes or ensuring they have a great jaw line because this could quickly descend into a consumerist practice that goes against the will of nature while bringing no real benefits to humanity. I also believe that genetic modifications would have to be universally accessible, If not free, then very close to free so as to prevent any sort of inequality in access. Clearly, the only way this could be done is if there was strict control over this technology.
Khazan, Olga. "We're Already Designing Babies." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 33 July 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Liss-Schultz, Nina. "We Are This Close to "designer Babies"" Mother Jones. Mother Jones, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Ly, By Sarah. "The Embryo Project Encyclopedia." Ethics of Designer Babies. Arizona State University. School of Life Sciences. Center for Biology and Society. Embryo Project Encyclopedia., 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.