Germline Engineering and Reprogenetic Technologies

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Modern technologies are constantly advancing in a multitude of ways to the degree that scientists have gained enough knowledgeable about the human genome to be able to find specific genes during the embryonic stage of reproduction. Scientists have already begun to use this knowledge to allow parents the ability to select the sex of their child and screen for genetic diseases via preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with in vitro fertilization (IVF). Sex-selection has already created world-wide discussion regarding the ethics of such a situation. However, scientists are now looking toward germline engineering which will essentially allow parents to select and alter genetic traits of their children before implantation of the embryo into the female body. John Alan Cohan’s article, “Ethics of Genetic Enhancement” and Marcy Darnovsky’s “The Case Against Designer Babies: The Politics of Genetic Enhancement” disagree in their investigations of the ethicality of germline engineering to potentially “design” our future children to be more capable in every aspect. Cohan’s investigation focuses primarily on the benefits of germline engineering, stating that reprogenetic technology would assist parents in providing their children with augmented lifespan and health, as well as an increase in the individual’s intellectuality and overall felicity. Darnovsky is aware that the technology could also help to prevent and withstand disease and assist in improving an individual’s body mass index. However, she believes the technology will require humans to reevaluate the core definition of a human as “genetically superior” children would grow to dominate the economic and social world. She also states that those who are financially inept won’t have access to the expensive technology, and will be put at further inequality. Cohan argues that our society has already created a social caste system in which wealthy parents can provide their children with the advantages of the latest electronic devices to the best college educations, while subordinates may be incapable of paying for such things. Darnovsky suggests that although many genetic scientists support germline engineering because it can potentially resist transfer of hereditary mutations, these scientists fail to mention that preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) does the same effect in allowing a technician to screen embryos for traces of diseases and simply deliver any non-infected embryos to the mother’s body. In conjunction, Darnovsky endorses the alternative of prenatal screening with the option of abortion to avoid the use of in vitro fertilization. Cohan, however, observes that it would dubious for the Court to restrict a woman’s reproductive rights to use germline technology while people are already using reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. He asserts that the right to use these reproductive technologies is protected by law, and implies that it would be hypocritical for the government to restrict use of germline technology while these other reproductive technologies are still in effect. Although Cohan insists that germline engineering could potentially infuse good behavior habits into children, Darnovsky asserts that the technology has the potential to encourage the view that any baby without perfect behavior, medical conditions or deficiencies is not worthy of obtaining life. Darnovsky suggests that those who are genetically disabled would feel ostracized, as scientists would be implicitly stating that those with physical or mental disabilities, height deficiencies and so forth are not valued in the society, and that scientists are trying to abolish these conditions. Trudging forward, Cohan elaborates on the conflict of individuality, explaining that children who are the products of germline engineering should not feel a loss of individuality or sense of worth because of their parents’ choices to alter their genes. This is...
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