Monday, September 13, 2010

Made-to-Order Children

I knew I would eventually read some pretty shocking and controversial information in my child development class, but I didn't know it would come in the second week! I had to read an article for my class all about "designer babies" and the many implications about IVF and modern fertilization techniques. I'm concerned that there isn't enough regulation going on protecting women and their offspring/potential offspring from becoming lab rats. There was a shocking amount of information regarding how many eggs and embryos are discarded, as well as experimented on with or without the parents' consent. Until there is more federal regulation going on, we will continue to see women and parents of all types being taken advantage of and their children suffering for it. We are the only modern/advanced country to support these types of fertilization techniques and NOT have a governmentally regulated system. Britain even has an entire committee in their Parliament specifically set apart to make decisions on IVF and DNA selection. Below I will paste my response to the assignment, which you will have to forgive me, is more neutral than I really feel. For the purposes of the assignment I wasn't allowed to offer an in-depth religious or political opinion, so I did my best. Truly, this is one of those topics I always find myself debating about. On one hand, I believe in "natural selection" as Darwin put forth. Some people aren't meant to be healthy, and their children will likewise be unhealthy and eventually, if we didn't have medicine to save us, we'd die out if we were the weaker beings, you know, "survival of the fittest." On the other hand, I believe that every individual deserves a right to live a normal and happy life. I also believe that if that life can be enhanced by medicine and scientific breakthroughs, it should be done. Of course, when you're dealing with unborn embryos, it gets a little hairy, but the basic principles remain the same. I guess the bottom line for me personally is, would I choose IVF if I couldn't produce my own children, and if I did choose such a path, would I then go so far as to choose to eliminate unwanted traits including health problems and hereditary diseases? For me, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' Who wouldn't try their best to give their child the best chance at life including possibly eliminating health problems like heart defects and genetic diseases that would impede the child's performance in this life? That being said, if I couldn't produce children of my own I would sooner adopt than pay the thousands of dollars it takes to bear my own children. There are so many children in need of a loving home, and I would happily give it to them. In fact it's already something my husband and I have discussed and we're seriously considering the idea ... when we're financially sound, of course. If you don't believe me about the numerous children available, just visit the government sponsored Web site for adoption,

Okay, here's my assignment. No correcting grammar, punctuation or anything like that. If you must criticize, I welcome your differing opinions and debates, but let's keep it kind and civil people. I mean, we are all friends after all, right?


First of all, I had no idea that there were so many options when it came to fertility treatments. I also had no idea that it was anti-abortion conservatives who were likely causing the delay in federal regulation of said treatments. In effect these individuals are aiding in the production of the things they are protesting by not allowing the tests and studies to be done and protecting the patients involved. The regulation would likely help avoid the discarding of embryos that could help aid in the discovery of new cures for diseases that are already plaguing children everywhere. Stem cell research is a viable technology that, while controversial, should not be ignored for its potential benefit to society. But who is protecting the mother whose eggs are harvested? Who is protecting that mother and her partner from harm to their child because fertility clinics aren’t being as careful as they need to be? And who is protecting the women who donate their eggs? What happens if those women are then “found out” by a couple whose child then has a genetic disease the donor wasn’t aware she carried? It can get pretty hairy.
Second, I can definitely see some advantages, especially in cases where couples carry a gene that would cause their child to have a disease or condition that would affect their quality of life. In fact, my son, who shows signs of autism, has speech and communication and developmental delays, and also has a potential inherited genetic condition, would have benefited from this kind of “selective” DNA fertilization. Especially if you could get specific enough to request smaller tonsils and adenoids or other anatomical changes that would keep children from having to undergo surgeries to repair malfunctioning or abnormal parts.  Aside from these advantages, there is also something to be said for the infertile couple who desire to have children. Most couples truly desperate for children would submit themselves to all sorts of testing and the like for the chance at having a baby. Adding the potential for creating only healthy children, and the thought becomes even more appealing. And what loving parent wouldn’t want the best for their child, even if that means choosing the “perfect” characteristics for your offspring? I know that if given the opportunity, I would do everything I could to have a healthy child. It is no different than eating right and taking prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy. We do these things because there is science to prove that it is beneficial to our baby. Loving parents would choose to save their children from harm if they could, and if science makes it possible then more parents will choose it.
But how far should the selection process be allowed to go? Once you are moving away from obvious defects and health problems and into personality traits, talents and looks, you are entering a realm of “perfectionism” that has little to no hope of regulation. What should happen to those children who are “test tube babies” that somehow, despite the best efforts of scientists, still end up with a health concern or debilitating personality or other trait? And the idea that the ability to “order” our children healthy, smart and beautiful will somehow increase the birth rates in our country is likewise foolish. No amount of biological engineering can convince parents to have more children than they would choose to parent otherwise. Certain types of fertilization techniques also eliminate the “natural” elimination process of bad cells, such as ICSI, where the individual sperm is implanted into an individual egg. That sperm may not have made it to that egg in the “natural” process of reproduction, and allowing that to occur scientifically creates a huge problem. That kind of fertilization requires extensive DNA testing before the embryo should be implanted.
All in all, I think that IVF and other treatments like it are a reality that can no longer be ignored by our government, and leaving the “science” to inadequately trained technicians in inadequately supplied clinics is only asking for trouble. Regulation is the key to keeping our citizens, and future citizens, safe. The further the selection process of looks, talents, etc. is allowed to go, the more split our society will become. Not just with parents who can afford such procedures and those who cannot, but also between the children. It is almost a certainty that eventually it will be widely known which children are naturally conceived and which are engineered by their parents. The engineered children are likely to have an edge on the “normal” children, and this disparity among peers will cause similar judgments and mistreatments as we saw in our country during the civil rights movement and the decades just prior to it. The bottom line is, we need to protect our people from themselves, and somehow this regulation will protect later generations from such apocalyptic representations as are depicted in recent science fiction movies.


1 comment:

  1. This is interesting. I saw a show that had this same topic. A couples son had a rare bone marrow disorder where he wasn't able to produce red blood cells and had to have blood transfusions every couple weeks. So his parents went through IVF treatments in the US to produce a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant. But they had to go through genetic testing on the embroyos to ensure that the baby would be a genetic match. Very controversial. They ended up with a daughter who was able to donate her bone marrow to her brother and saved his life. I don't know what I would have done if it was my son and it was his only chance at surviving. You should check it out....

    Having a Baby to Save My Child on BBC


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