> Check out:
> The couple involved are now planning to go to the US to have the
> treatment performed. Is this really ethical?
No. They should never have been put in a position where they had to leave this
country to go to the US. The decision against them is unethical. Their choice to go
to the US is a feasible remaining option.
> They are going to be bringing a new life in the world. not becuase
> they will love and cherish this new life, but so they can use it to
> save the life of another.
I find this assumption very irritating. No-where in the news report, or reports at
do the parents say that the sole purpose of the proposed "designer baby" is just to
ease the pain of their son Charlie Whitaker. Perhaps the parents want another
child? The "tissue-typing" IVF technique would have been a practical measure so
that they could have had a child *and* eased the agony of their critically ill son.
People often choose to reproduce so as to enrich their lives an those of the children
they already have - this case is no different. I™m sure nay new child would be most
loved considering what it could do for the family. You claim their attitude is purely
instrumental and without care, but this is not evident.
Assumptions as to their motives and emotional capacity aside, the main objections
to the procedure seem to be:
"in the Whitakers' case, Charlie's disorder is "sporadic," meaning the chances of his
parents having another baby with the disease is no greater than with the general
public - between five and seven per million live births.
So there is no reason to believe Mrs Whitaker's embryos would again hold the
genetic disorder affecting Charlie."
This is not an ethical objection, but a technical one. The law on human fertilisation
and embryology (the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act) states that this
procedure (called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, PGD) is normally done for
couples when one or both of whom carry a genetic disorder and the chances of
passing the disorder on are great.
This objection illustrates an inflexible and dogmatic attitude to the law, not account
for a couples motives or situation.
There is an attempt to underpin this law with an ethical element, which serves as
the other main objection to PGD is this case.
The procedure the Whitakers want to carry out would not be to check whether the
embryos carried a genetic disorder, but to see whether the embryo was a match for
Charlie. Is can be done, so what™s the problem?
The HFEA has argued that the procedure would mean selecting one life, or embryo,
which matches Charlie's tissue type, over another life, another embryo, which does
This is their main ethical objection.
They also have a political motive to deny this treatment.
śThe HFEA was criticised by MP's in July for granting a licence to create a so called
'designer baby' to another couple in similar circumstances.ť
The final sicken blow reads: śThe organisation claims that the public is happy with
the procedure of checking embryos to ensure they are free of genetic disorders, but
does not support using the procedure to check embryos for other reasons, including
What have the uninformed public got to do with the decisions two people make
about the reproductive technologies they employ (and perhaps pay for)?
As to the main ethical objection - this rests on valuing a bunch of embryos over the
life of a 3 year old, currently in agony, and his tormented parents. So what if one
embryo is chosen over others, the others discarded? Superfluous embryos are
discarded during many different types of IVF treatment, including śtest-tubeť
conception and PGD. Regarding the use and value of embryos, this case is no
difference. They stopped the procedure due to a legal technicality.
As to the value of embryos - this would depend on which side of the abortion debate
you sit on. As a pro-choice supporter, I see the value of social human life (those like
Charlie and his parents - ie: *persons*) to be greater than the collection of
characterless, thoughtless and barely sensing cells we call embryos.
The Whitakers made a decision that they value their son above a bunch of
embryo™s. The valuation clashed with a legal technicality and the political climate.
Just because they value embryos less than grown children they know, it doesn™t
mean they will not value any baby that is born out of the procedure they want
Two final points: first, if they find an embryo match and technology was available
which would isolate the necessary bone marrow cells which would allow the
scientists to then grow them separately from the embryo without letting the embryo
grow, then would this (stem-cell technique) be ethical? Is you objection that they are
bringing a new child into the world (ie, that they have made a decision to
reproduce), or is it that they are discarding embryos?
Second - what is wrong with designer babies? Improving the health of babies is
good for them and whoever pays for medical costs. Eliminating genetic disorders
and improving the intelligence of babies would be good for everyone generally. The
only possible problems could be a class schism whereby those rich enough could
afford designed babies, but I'm not greatly concerned by repro. cloning resulting in
separate "races", or rather classes, of genetic "haves" and "havenots". We already
have that situation with regards to food, lifestyle, health care and medicine (though
that is not justification for inequality getting worse, just an observation). Also, if new
generations of uberkinder (for want of a better term!) are healthier, there is more
money to go to the unhealthy, ungenetically modified. If they are smarter, they
should speed technological and political progress which should benefit all. Finally,
those who haven't received genetic manipulation don't permanently lose out.
Technological advances in augmentation of the senses (see here for example:
"http://wired.com/news/medtech/0",1286,53298,00.html ), limb, tissue, bone and
organ replacement (using theraputic cloning), medical nanobots
1053) and genetically tailored drugs
("http://www.bio.org/events/2001/event2001home.html") could level the field.
Naturally, if any uberkinder reproduce with genetically unmodified people, their
children will probably get benefits of gene-mod. for free.
Take the following two scenes enacted in a shopping mall, say, or on the street or in the park: in the first
an adult is striking a screaming child repeatedly on the buttocks; in the second an adult is sitting with a
child on a bench and they are hugging. Which scene is more common? Which makes us uneasy? Which
do we judge to be normal? Which is more likely to run afoul of the law? A society, I believe, which
honors hitting and suspects hugging is immoral.
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