Friday, December 22, 2006

Designer’ babies with made-to-order defects?

Creating made-to-order babies with genetic defects would seem to be an ethical minefield, but to some parents with disabilities — say, deafness or dwarfism — it just means making babies like them.

And a recent survey of U.S. clinics that offer embryo screening suggests it’s already happening.
Three percent, or four clinics surveyed, said they have provided the costly, complicated procedure to help families create children with a disability.

As a fairly short person myself (5 feet), I have nothing against dwarfs, but as the article indicates, having a person with one such gene may need surgery for dwarfism-related bone deformities. A baby with two such genes dies. Unless/until we devastate the environment so badly that small people will have an advantage because we need less resources, it would be wrong to deliberately create people such disabilities. Since we know of widespread genes which are seriously harmful or fatal when two are present, but protective in some circumstances for those who have a single gene, we should be leary of trying to stamp out such genes, but it would be wrong to deliberately choose for them, at least when even the single gene causes problems.

I have progressive myopia, caused by a recessive gene. It is possible it is associated with increased IQ (there is still an open question, as far as I know). But I certainly wouldn't go out and deliberately try to have children with this condition.

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