Introduction & History
People have been seeking to create "designer babies" for centuries. Character and trait selection have not always been done using scientifically proven methods, but it has been around for as long as the human race has been reproducing. In many respects human nature seeks to choose those characteristics which we find most attractive, we choose the partner we wish to breed with, someone who has the features we like, someone we approve of, has traits or characteristics we desire in our children. This process does not necessarily take place on a wholly conscious level but it certainly does not occur on pure chance. The concept of being able to look in on how genes were developing and alter how they turn out would of seemed like a science fiction novel in years past, but with modernistic advancements in genetic testing this concept has become a actuality. There have been important advancements in the area of genetics within the last twenty years, and knowledge gained presently has been put to use in the medical community.
In Hi-Tech Babies, a book on alternative reproductive technologies, Gary E. McCuen looks at what might become common place in the future of genetically constructing babies. "Soon it will be technically possible for a young couple in their desire to have an unblemished child, to take several of the woman's ova fertilized in a test tube with the husband's sperm producing several embryos with different genetic combinations. The embryo with the most desirable genetic traits would be implanted in the woman to produce a pregnancy" (31). In 1990, McCuen accurately predicted a highly controversial process that is relevant today. People associate this process in ultimately creating a "designer baby." According to the book Children of Choice by John A. Robertson, "The idea of selecting offspring traits-of quality control of offspringis both appealing and disturbing. It is appealing because of the understandable desire for a normal, healthy child. Yet there is something deeply disturbing about deliberate efforts to assure a healthy birth, at least when certain means are used" (150). Robertson was correct. Most people find the whole idea as both exciting and frightening and most certainly plentiful with ethical issues. Within the first few hours after conception a phenomenon takes place in the one-cell human embryo. The genes of the mother, carried by the ovum, and the genes of the father, carried by the sperm combine. At that moment, when the pairing is completed, the genetic fate of the person-to-be is sealed. The sex, eye color, hair, height, blood type, fingerprints, shoe size, indeed all physical and chemical characteristic are irreversibly determined, or are they? The sting of the matter is determining at what point does "life" actually begin?
The Moral Status of the Embryo
The start of "life" is subjective. Scientists, philosophers, religious leaders all have various perspectives. There are three possible ways of conceiving the moral status of the embryo: as a thing, as a person, or as something in between. To regard an embryo as a mere thing, may overlook its significance as emerging human life. One does not have to regard an embryo as a full human person in order to believe that it is due a certain amount of respect. However, respect of an embryo should be substantial and appropriate simply because it is a wondrous entity of nature. One way to avoid a degrading standpoint toward nascent human life is to assign full personhood to the embryo. The person views how the embryo will undeniably develop into a human being.
Nobody can quite imagine what the future may hold, but currently, only gender can be selected. There are actually several different methods that can be used to try to ensure or discover the sex of the baby. The first method is sperm sorting. This consists of taking the sperm of the father and separating them into male and female...
Cited: American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Ethics Committee. "Preconception gender selection for nonmedical reasons." 75 (2001) 861–864
Begley, Sharon. "Designer Babies." Newsweek 9 Nov. 1998: 61.
Boukhari, Sophie, and Otchet, Amy. "Uncharted Terrain on Tomorrow 's Genetic Map." UNESCO Courier Sep. 1999: 18.
Gibbs, Nancy. "If We Have It, Do We Use It? Time Asia 154.10 (1999)
Lemonick, Michael D. "Brave New Pharmacy" Time Europe 157.2 (2000)
McCuen, Gary E. Hi Tech Babies. GEM publications 1990
Silver, Lee M. Remaking Eden Avon Books. New York. 1997.
Robertson, John A. Children of Choice. Princeton University Press. Princeton. 1994.
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