Designer Babies Opinion Essay Outline

The first study to modify the genes of a human embryo, conducted at Sun Yat-sen University in China, has caused a furious backlash. Nature and Science, the world’s most prestigious scientific journals refused to publish the study, at least partly on ethical grounds. Instead they publishedcommentaries calling for such research to be stopped. On Wednesday, the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) restated their position that it will “not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos.” The NIH views such editing of the “germline” in human embryos as “a line that should not be crossed.” The stance will essentially stifle any research on gene editing in embryos in the US.

The ultimate goal of gene editing technologies is the capacity to make precise, controlled modifications to very specific areas of the genome. This would be a powerful ability. Gene editing unlocks access to an entirely novel way to fight disease which has been unreachable until now.

Scientists genetically modify human embryos in controversial world first

Around 7.9 million children each year are born with a serious birth defect that has a significant genetic contribution. If we could safely and easily correct these errors at the embryonic stage it would be possible to virtually eradicate this disease burden. In addition, 30% of all deaths worldwide are due to chronic diseases (such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) in those under 70. We all know of people who seem innately resistant to the perils of ageing and flourish well into their 80s and 90s. Gene editing could ensure we all have the best chance to live healthily into old age.

There are many challenges we must overcome to access the benefits of gene editing. The first and foremost is safety. Under agreed global research ethics standards, no experiments should be conducted where there is a high risk of harm to the participant, and a low chance of benefit. Gene editing is a long way from overcoming this barrier. Current techniques are imprecise, and lead to widespread damage to the genome. It would be highly unethical if a child was born whose genome was edited with current techniques.

Should we genetically engineer humans? – podcast

However, we can still perform important research with current gene editing technologies in ways which harm no one. The pioneering Chinese study was performed entirely on abnormal, unviable IVF embryos that could never result in a live birth. Gene editing techniques could be greatly advanced by experiments conducted entirely in petri dishes, with embryos that would otherwise be destroyed and in accordance with existing regulations. The UK has a comprehensive and well-established regulatory framework for embryo research, including provisions that only embryos under 14 days old be used. This framework has successfully guided research involving embryos for over two decades.

Many fear that such research will lead us on a path to “designer babies”. People shudder at the thought of parents picking and choosing the genes of their children, just as they pick and choose the accessories for their nurseries. And we have good reasons to be concerned about this prospect. Widespread access to gene editing technologies could harm children and damage the gene pool. Genes fashionable in one generation may prove to be harmful in the next. In addition, parental control of the gene pool could reduce valuable forms of diversity. If every parent picks the same immunity genes for their children, it may make them collectively as vulnerable to pathogens as 19th century Irish potatoes.

But a fear of designer babies should not distract us from the goal of healthy babies. We know that some genes are bad in nearly every conceivable environment. There is no possible way that the gene which causes Tay-Sachs disease - a disease in which children develop normally for six months and then become progressively deaf, blind, unable to swallow, and paralytic, before dying at four - will benefit future generations. We lose nothing by editing this gene out of the human lineage.

There is no reason why we couldn’t restrict the use of gene editing technologies to removing valueless genes like this. For over two decades we have successfully used IVF and pre-implantation diagnosis (PGD) in this way. Regulations restrict the use of these technologies to the prevention of disease. Similar regulations could restrict gene editing technologies to therapeutic uses.

Some see unpredictable consequences, rather than designer babies, as the key risk in crossing the line to edited embryos. They see meddling with our genome as inherently dangerous – no matter which genes we target. Just dipping our toes in the gene pool will cause large ripples. These ripples will cause chaotic and uncontrollable consequences. According to this view it would be far wiser not to dip our toes in at all.

But the gene pool is a violent ocean rather than a peaceful pond. The human germline is in a constant state of flux. Every new birth adds new genetic variants, and each death removes some. Many permitted human activities, like delaying paternity, add to this chaos by increasing the number of random mutations in the germline. Any ripples caused by targeted therapeutic gene editing will likely be dwarfed by other factors.

No matter what is done in the UK, the line to edited embryos and intentional germline modifications will be crossed soon. In the US, work can go ahead with funding from foundations, charities, companies or private individuals. China will race ahead. Others will likely follow. If we want gene editing research to be done in a responsible way, we need countries with good regulatory systems leading the charge. The UK is one such country, where the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority can provide reassurance that no research or application proceeds without proper evaluation.

Whoever first crosses the line to edited embryos will find a powerful new resource in the fight against disease. Like many resources there are risks associated with its use. Indeed the risks are very high. However ignoring the resource is also risky. We may needlessly subject future generations to an endless cycle of suffering and disease.

What we ought to do is use this resource responsibly. We should harness its power to achieve good ends and restrict its use for purposes that are bad. This will not be achieved by simply withdrawing from research. It’s time to mount a responsible expedition across the line to edited embryos and the UK should lead the way.

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Designer Babies

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Designer Babies - by: Noah Martin

A baby born in England was chosen in the embryonic stage to undergo genetic testing, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, also known as PGD (Britt). This was so she could be free of a gene that linked to certain type of cancer. A forty-year-old woman underwent PGD because she had Alzheimer’s disease and was afraid of passing it on to her child. From there she implanted embryos without that gene into her womb (Britt). This gave her the miracle of a healthy baby girl, free of Alzheimer’s. Currently, PGD is only used for similar cases such as the ones above, curing babies of life-affecting diseases. Many people would agree that this is for the greater good of the planet but there are negative results that would come out of this. Also, in the future, PGD could be able to help parents decide what kind of baby they desire. Imagine a world where parents can choose their ideal baby out of a catalogue, being able to ask for an athletic, intelligent, and social child with blue eyes and blonde hair. It would be as easy as ordering a hamburger with all of your favourite toppings in a restaurant. The real question is where to draw the line. Using PGD to cure diseases before birth is questionable, but using PGD just to give a child a competitive edge is unethical.

There are two main reasons why curing diseases with this new technology is wrong. Firstly, it is now possible to detect genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and TaySachs disease, and then the parents have the option to abort the fetus (Giunta). It is possible to receive a false-positive result while being tested. This means that there have been many embryos, future human beings that have been killed needlessly. Secondly, let’s say we use this research to get rid of all genetically transferred diseases. This could affect the flow of the world’s population. The world’s resources are already running out, if the population goes up then there is no telling what could happen (Giunta). There still are positive reasons for getting rid of diseases using PGD. It can save a human being from suffering his/her whole life.

One thing to consider is the social impact of genetically engineering a baby. In the future, if designer babies do come into play, then most of the population will consist of designer babies. One would think, what would happen to the babies that do not have the privilege of being born with these superior qualities? They would most likely be discriminated against. For example, if a designer baby and a non-designer baby are competing for a job. The designer baby is far more superior in every aspect than the non-designer baby. The designer baby would obviously get the job. This leaves the non-designer baby in a situation where they would have to get a low-paying job. Of course we obviously do need good workers for the low-paying jobs, it’s how the world works. But it should be the decision of the child of what they want to do in life and how hard they are willing to work for it. Dr. Steinberg, a pioneer of In Vitro Fertilization, said that "You can say eye colour and hair colour are not diseases, no they're not, and there is a cosmetic element to it, but we fix crooked noses all the time ( News Staff)." This is a valid point but it is hard to compare plastic surgery or nose jobs, with designer babies. Plastic surgery is up to the person who is getting the surgery. With advanced technology they are allowed to change their face into any which way they want. With designer babies it is up to the parents. Maybe the parent’s ideal look for their child is not the way that the actual child wants their look to be. Sure the parents would be happy, but most would agree that it would be better if the child were happy as well. In the article “Designer Babies” written by David Bygott, Bygott made the point of it being no different from parents offering music, sports, and tutors, giving their child every advantage that they can (Bygott). The difference is, music, sports, and school take a lot of hard work to get experienced at. It is a lot different from being born with these qualities, automatically being good at any given activity. Many people born with these so-called undesirable traits say that it is apart of who they are. Nobody has the right to say what should be “fixed” when the people who have these certain traits are perfectly fine with them.

The cost of designer babies is a huge factor to why they are considered unethical. Using this technology is probably going to be very costly, currently people are paying over $18 000 for PGD (Hattie). This would mean that designer babies would only be open to middle-upper class citizens. The lower income citizens would not have the option of choosing designer babies. The lower income citizens of the world are already excluded from so many new innovations because of the cost. The last thing that they need is another obstacle that they have to overcome. Parents want what is best for their child, even the lower class. By giving the option of designer babies only to middle and upper class, it would just give the lower class child an unequal chance of success. For example, when we get back to David Bygott’s point, these lower class citizens will still have to work to be good at every-day activities, how fair is that considering the wealthier kids catch this talent naturally.

The Holocaust is an example in history that shows why making designer babies is unethical. Adolph Hitler and the Nazis set out to create the Aryan Race (the perfect race) during the Holocaust starting in 1939. To achieve their goals they started to eliminate every person that was considered undesirable. This led to the deaths of millions of innocent people. Many Jews, disabled people, political and religious opponents and many more were exterminated, adding up to a total of somewhere between nine and eleven million people (Giunta). When looking back at the Holocaust, most people think of a sad and evil period of time that we are not proud of. Yet now the idea of designer babies comes running into the picture and it makes us realize, we haven’t come that far at all. This is exactly where the quote “If history is forgotten it is doomed to repeat itself” comes into play. The only difference between the Holocaust and designer babies is that instead of killing human beings that are out of a womb, we would be killing undesirable cells and embryos. Some people would think that cells and embryos aren’t living yet; it’s just like an abortion. The fact is that these cells and embryos will soon grow up into babies. Instead of taking a life away from a human being, you will be killing something that hasn’t even gotten a chance at life. When designer babies come into China, a country that values all baby boys above baby girls, what will happen to their race (Guinta)? The population of boys in china would be much higher than girls. The only difference between designer babies and the Nazis is that many people feel that designer babies are for the good of the planet, but in reality, they aren’t.

In conclusion, genetically designing babies is unethical. Even curing babies using this new technology has its negative effects. Just because we have the power to “play God” doesn’t mean it is ethical to do such a thing. It would affect people all over the world. There is no excitement when knowing everything about your child before the child even knows, some things are best left untouched. The choice is left to us, whether we should risk repeating history by going back to the days of Hitler’s genocide. Or we can stay as we are, leaving the future of our babies up to chance. Whether we should have all human beings born equal at birth, or having the lower-class citizens discriminated against. There is still a lot of time to think about this issue because we still have years until we find all the genes that make up hair, eye colour and any other traits. Though unless we want chaos when the time comes, and it will come, we should start thinking about it now.

Submitted by: noahmartin189

Tagged...Designer, Babies, Noah, ethical, debatable


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