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Running head: Designer Baby

Cristina Rodriguez
14-8017
Professor Berrido Torres

Universidad Iberoamericana
5 December 2013

Designer Baby

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Abstract

In this essay we will explore the advances of human genetic engineering. In addition, the
paper discusses the ethical values of each procedure and how doctors and other experts
are criticizing them. The main technics being examined are In Vitro Fertilization and
Preimplantation Diagnosis and how these can open the doors to what journalists call
Designer Baby.

Designer Baby

Bring your partner, grab a seat, pick up your baby catalog and start choosing.
Will you go for the brown hair or blond? Would you prefer tall or short? Funny or clever?
Girl or boy? And do you want them to be a muscle-bound sports hero? Or a slender and
intelligent bookworm? When you're done selecting, head to the counter and it's time to
start creating your new child. (Steere, 2008) Though it sounds like a line taken from a
science fiction movie, rapid advances in genetic research and knowledge of the human
genome as well as increased experiments that have aided our ability to change genes
could make designing a baby possible in the near future. Increasing power and
accessibility of genetic technology may one day give parents the option of modifying
their unborn children. This idea of using genetic engineering in order to improve the
human race has raised many ethical and legal questions. In addition, questionable
processes to avoid miscarriages involve experimentation on human beings as embryos.
Genes influence health and disease, they hold the information to build and
maintain an organism's cells and pass genetic traits to offspring. (Stevenson, Linderberg
2010) To date, genetic technology has only been used to treat serious disease in children.
Advanced reproductive techniques involve using InVitro Fertilization or IVF to fertilize
eggs with sperm outside the mothers body. (Web MD, 2012) IVF led to a procedure that
allows parents and doctors to reduce the chance that a child will be born with a genetic
disorder. This procedure is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). (Web MD,
2012) However, this can affect the natural way in which life works. As way of
illustration, lets consider a genetic disorder that is specific to one gender, such as
hemophilia, which usually affects boys. Doctors may examine the cells to determine the
gender of an embryo, and in a case where a family has history of hemophilia, only select
the female embryos for placement in the uterus. This practice raises ethical questions

Designer Baby

about whether parents should be able to choose the sex of the embryos. This could lead to
an imbalance between genders in the population, especially in societies that prefer having
a boy such as China. (Bonsor, Layton) As a result, sex selection in some countries is only
permitted to avoid certain diseases. In Britain, for instance, it is illegal to select the sex of
a child just because the parents want either a boy or a girl. (Bionet.com) To prevent
genetic diseases, tampering with genes both saves the child from suffering and reduces
the cost and emotional strain of looking after an ill child. Nonetheless, this could have
consequences that affect the balance of nature.
On the other hand, is using PGD technology for cosmetic reasons, such as
choosing eye color and height. This ideas raises many questions and develops in people
the fear journalists call designer baby. Today, PGD can only be used to look at one or
two genes at a time. However, character traits we might want to choose, anything from
height to intelligence, are influenced by a whole range of genes. Nevertheless, as genome
research advances, it is predicted that we will be able to choose personality traits for our
children. In fact, back in 2009, a fertility clinic in Los Angeles offered parents the options
of choosing hair and eye color for their children. The clinic shut down the program due to
peoples outrage. (Keim, 2009) Mark Hughes, one of the inventors of pre-implantation
genetic diagnosis, called its non-therapeutic use "ridiculous and irresponsible." (Keim,
2009) Even if some people find this horrifying, others disagree. This is the case of
transhumanist author James Hughes. If nobody gets hurt and everybody has access,
says Hughes, then genetic modification is perfectly fine, and restricting it is an assault
on reproductive freedom. (Keim, 2009)

In September 24, 2013 consumer genomics company 23andMe was granted the patent for

Designer Baby

gamete (egg or sperm) donor selection method. (Sifferlin, 2013) "What 23andMe is
claiming is a method by which prospective donors of ova and/or sperm may be selected
so as to increase the likelihood of producing a human baby with characteristics desired by
the prospective parents," write medical ethicists from Belgium, the Netherlands and
France in the journal Genetics in Medicine. This patent that was given to the 23andMe
company has made the possibility of custom-made babies a bigger possibility since it
claims to allow couples to have their sperm and egg genetically analyzed for specific
traits ranging from height, eye color, risk of colon cancer or heart disease, to athleticism.
(Sifferlin, 2013) Officials of the company have said the technology will only be used to
help couples get a better idea about the probability that their offspring would inherit a
variety of traits, including mutations that predispose to cancer and heart disease.
(23andMe,2013) However, the companys technique reveals knowledge about genetic
changes involved with physical and behavioral attributes. As a result, the ability to link
genes, or changes in genes will only continue to grow, making designer-babies a
greater possibility in the future even if were not ready for it.
In conclusion, genetic engineering advances have resulted in many new lives and
miracles for infertile parents. However, these procedures have raised ethical questions
since they involve experimentation with human embryos. In addition, processes such as
PGD in order to test for genetic disorders might lead to a risk of using the technology for
unethical reasons such as choosing a babys gender because of preference. This might
result in an imbalance in society. On the other hand, genetic research advances might also
be used to choose the looks of a baby and his/hers behavioral qualities. This has given
rise to controversies and debates since a persons characteristics have always been a

Designer Baby

random thing influenced by environment and alimentation. Choosing these qualities


might lead to a certain control over humans future that were not ready to have yet.

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