A married couple wishes to have a child; however, the 32 year old mother knows that she is a carrier for Huntington's disease (HD). HD is a genetic disorder that begins showing signs at anywhere from 35-45 years of age. Its symptoms begin with slow loss of muscle control and end in loss of speech, large muscle spasms, disorientation and emotional outbursts. After 15-20 years of symptoms HD ends in death. HD is a dominant disorder which means that her child will have a 50% chance of contracting the disorder. Feeling that risking their baby's health would be irresponsible, the couple decides to use in vitro fertilization to fertilize several of the wife's eggs. Several eggs are harvested, and using special technology, only eggs that do not have the defective gene are kept to be fertilized. The physician then fertilizes a single egg, and transfers the embryo to the mother. Approximately 9 months later, the couple gives birth to a boy who does not carry the gene for the disorder. •
Is this a case of eugenics? "Eugenics" is defined as "the hereditary improvement of the human race controlled by selective breeding" (dictionary.com) Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. The purported goals have variously been to create healthier, more intelligent people, save society's resources, and lessen human suffering. Earlier proposed means of achieving these goals focused on selective breeding, while modern ones focus on prenatal testing and screening, genetic counseling, birth control, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering. (New World Encyclopedia) Given this information this would be considered a case of eugenics. •
Would it be acceptable for the parents to select for sex as well, or should they only select an embryo that does not have HD? How would this be different? It would not be acceptable to select for sex. The selection should be used based on the presence or absence of the genetic trait that would cause harm. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) should be offered for 3 major groups of disease: (1) sex-linked disorders, (2) single gene defects, and (3) chromosomal disorders. (Medscape, 2012) None of the above would include the sex of the child. •
Is it ethical for this couple to have a baby when the mother could begin showings signs of HD when the baby is just a few years old? The woman has the right to determine if she is wanting and is going to be able to care for the child. In this particular situation there is a mother and a father present and if the mother should show signs of HD the father would assume responsibility. •
With this technology possible, would it be ethical for this couple to have a child without genetically ensuring it would not have the disease? What if we did not have this technology, would it be ethical for a known carrier to have a child? (If not, how far should this carry? a carrier for cystic fibrosis (which is recessive)? ) Given that this technology is present is does not appear to be ethical for a couple to knowingly give birth to a child who will not only have the disease but could pass it on to future offspring. If the technology were not available, as was the case years ago, a known carrier would have to be well advised of the probability of having a child with the disease and would have to formulate a conscious decision to advance with their decision to procreate. According to the Marriam-Webster Dictionary ethics is “conforming to accepted standards of conduct.” By this definition one could argue that a known carrier that chooses to have a baby is acting unethically. Carriers of recessive trait that hold a 25% of producing offspring with the trait would then also fall into this category. •
Weighing everything we have discussed, do you believe the couple acted ethically? I believe that the couple acted ethically in the fact that they did not want to bring a child into this world knowing...
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