Designer Babies… like a baby dressed in Gucci?!


I went to an all girls high school and of course any Jodi Picoult novel was acceptable as part of any summer reading list. I have read and seen the movie My Sister’s Keeper which is about a family that has one chronically ill daughter (Kate) and decides to genetically create another daughter (Anne) in a test tube and use the created child’s bone marrow, organs, ect. to save the life of the original sister. The novel illustrates Anne’s dilemma of saving her sister who she loves and also having a life for herself that does not consist of being simply “parts” for her sister. She tries to gain legal rights to her body (I think she is 13?), but her mother tries to fight it. It is a great beach read and I won’t give the ending away, but does this actually exist? In reality, do partners decide to create a “Designer Baby”, not a baby dressed up in Gucci, but a baby for the sole purpose of using their organs and marrow for other genetic matches in their family?

Adam Nash is the first designer baby in the United States in 2000. The Colorado infant was the first test-tube baby from an embryo screened and selected for implantation from among several competing embryos in order to provide matching tissue for an ailing older sibling. Adam’s older sister, Molly was 6 years old with a blood disorder which needed a bone marrow transplant. So in a batch of 30 embryos, only one matched and it was Adam.

Is this legal? Genetically choosing a life? If technology like this is available to us, is it fair? Technology is rapidly growing faster than our abilities to create laws for or against new discoveries. Medical technology is also growing faster than society’s ability to create a moral opinion on the matter. Adam’s family created him to save a life, so one person could see it as creating one life and saving another. Other people might see this process of as saving 2 lives (the sibling and the winning embryo), but I see it as killing 29 future babies by injecting chloride into the “unsuccessful” embryos. Is fairness based on availability? If society created this innovation, and if it is available, can we participate? Why else create that ability right? But hey, I also have the availability to obtain crack (actually I have no idea but I’m trying to make a point), but is smoking crack, is that right?

According to a Times article in 2000, 300 IVF babies in the U.S. have been born after the same genetic-screening procedure the Nashes used, though in those cases the goal was simply to ensure that the embryos were not carrying serious genetic defects. Now I just opened up a completely different issue, should you have the ability to make sure your child does not have a “serious genetic defect“?

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,998238,00.html

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3 thoughts on “Designer Babies… like a baby dressed in Gucci?!

  1. Fascinating. Amazing. Was Picoult’s novel before Adam? Did they REALLY give the boy that name.

    Now, you don’t say this, and I must be right, but the savior boy is not KILLED to save his older sister, surely?

    Ok, is it fair to be allowed to create an embryo and bring to term a child who will be asked or required to give up some or her tissues to help a sibling? Should it be legal?

    You imply no with your crack analogy.

    I’ll say yes. It should be legal. There are a million reasons people have kids. Some selfish, some not. Is it any more or less fair than some parent who has an “nth” child to get a boy or a girl because he “always wanted a son” or “daughter”? Who has “nth” child to get extra help in the business, on the farm?

    Now, you also suggest there is a fairness issue about the number of fertilized embryos created to make one “savior baby.” I am unsure the exact laws on this, but since IVF always has surplus embryos, it is already legal, right? Do you want another post that says that IVF is unfair or unjust due to eggs that are fertilized and then destroyed? Sounds like the politics and ethics of when life starts to me. The blog can go there too.

  2. I loved this book and even the movie was somewhat entertaining. From what I remember in high school biology (which isn’t much), there is another way that parents are using this practice that I think is beneficial. I agree that test tube babies for “spare parts” is highly ethically questionable. However, I do see the benefit of having this genetic manipulation available to the public in other cases.

    Many parents abstain from having children because they fear passing on a disease to their offspring. For example, cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that can be passed on from parent to child. Since the disease can be very severe and often diagnosed as early as 2 years old, many afflicted parents do not want to risk having a child and passing the disease on to them. Genetic manipulation allows that gene to be removed or altered in some way so that the chances of the disease in the child are lessened or eliminated.

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