A US clinic is preparing to offer the service of screening embryos, pre-implantation, for cosmetic factors and sex, not only for disease or birth defects. We are talking here about couples who are already having multiple embryos created, and then selecting one that meets its criteria to bring to term. So far, the selection is only being made on the basis of avoiding medical problems; the “leap” here is to allowing it to be made on other criteria as well. And all kinds of people who are fine with the former are objecting to the latter.
But Dr Gillian Lockwood, a UK fertility expert and member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ ethics committee, questioned whether is was morally right to be using the science in this way. “If it gets to the point where we can decide which gene or combination of genes are responsible for blue eyes or blonde hair, what are you going to do with all those other embryos that turn out like me to be ginger with green eyes?” “
Just as I can’t understand why aborting a baby because it’s the “wrong” sex is worse than aborting a baby because you broke up with its father, I don’t see why choosing one embryo and destroying the rest is worse for cosmetic reasons than for medical reasons. Certainly the desire to have a child without a disease is much more sympathetic than the desire to have a blond child; but if the issue of morality here is creating 8 embryos with the knowledge that 7 of them will be destroyed, the reason why one is chosen and the rest destroyed is pretty much beside the point.
Some countries have figured this out:
Italian fertility law does not permit the creation of surplus embryos or selective testing. Ms Quintavalle said that was “one sure way to avoid the slippery slope”.
Sounds good to me.
Andrea might argue that it is less heinous to select for cosmetics. One could argue we already do that when we have kids the natural way–we choose mates we are attracted to–and that might mean marrying a man who is tall, dark and handsome, or blonde, or what have you. What we don’t do is test prospective mates for their immunity to disease. In any event, it is scarier to me to choose embryos for medical reasons. Because now we’re getting into the Perfectability of the Human Race and all that has ever meant in the past is really bad things.
Brigitte dislikes both: Seems to me breeding for looks can be every bit as bad as the other kind.
Andrea adds: I won’t disagree with you, Brigitte.
Anyone watch Gattaca, oops I mean Bio-Dad on the CBC the other night? And listen to some specialist in California talk about his comfort level choosing embryos by sex? And how he would be fine with checking embryos for genetic disposition to disease?by