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Designer Babies

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123439771603075099.html

Well, I'd like to see what you guys think of this. Personally, I find it a bit reminiscent of the Stepford Wives. I also think that limiting genetic diversity is a dangerous thing for the human race, although I can understand why parents would want to screen their unborn child for potentially lethal or debilitating diseases.

I can understand, can't say I really agree.

Have at it! What are your thoughts?

Eugenics-- sounds like the early premonitions of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I don't think there's anything good about this. Shame shame  :boooo:

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I'll be honest. Part of the reason that I don't want to have children is that they have a 1 in 4 chance of developing type 1 diabetes. I know what that's like, and if doctors could assure me that my child would never have to go through what I've been going through for nearly 12 years, I would consider having children. That kind of "designing" I agree with.

Mapping DNA is a double-sided coin. In one instance, you can cure or avoid disease. On the other hand, you have the people who want to use it to make their children what they assume is perfect. You can up the chances of discrimination, but you can also decrease the chance of MS, Huntington's, and diabetes. It's risky, but I think that it can be worth it.

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I wish people would just want healthy, happy children--is a person who is "designing" their child having a chid because they truly want to raise and nuture said child? This just sems like "shopping for life" to me--like picking out a purse or belt...*sigh* I totally understand screening for disease, attempting to care for your child from a very early stage--but making sure they have a certain colour eyes or hair? What happenes if baby is unfortunate enough to not develop they way it was "picked out"? Are these people planning on returning said baby as they would that purse? It just makes me sad that people put such weight on physical appearence--how are these parents going to tell their child later in life that they are valuable for what's on the inside and not the outside? Their whole creation revolved around superficial characteristics...again, this just makes me really sad.

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I wish people would just want healthy, happy children--is a person who is "designing" their child having a chid because they truly want to raise and nuture said child? This just sems like "shopping for life" to me--like picking out a purse or belt...*sigh* I totally understand screening for disease, attempting to care for your child from a very early stage--but making sure they have a certain colour eyes or hair? What happenes if baby is unfortunate enough to not develop they way it was "picked out"? Are these people planning on returning said baby as they would that purse? It just makes me sad that people put such weight on physical appearence--how are these parents going to tell their child later in life that they are valuable for what's on the inside and not the outside? Their whole creation revolved around superficial characteristics...again, this just makes me really sad.

Yeah, I totally agree with you. There's no magic or mystery left to it...no awe or wonderment as to whose features the baby has gotten from the combined 46 chromosome tossup. It's like people are playing "God" . I think even if you don't believe in God, I don't think we're meant to be shopping for genes and creating some 'master race'.... also, genetic diversity has helped eradicate diseases and whatnot, and doing such specific breeding and eugenics I think will bring serious problems in the short-term and long-term imho  :-\

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I was born with a cleft lip and palate and any child I have has an increased chance to have the same. My boyfriend's family has a history of severe heart conditions and asthma. Not a cool combination in my book. I had extensive reconstructive surgery for the first twenty years of my life and would, as Courth said, rather not have children than end up in the same situation again with my child. My parents had no way of knowing that I would be cleft palated and as I understand it, it wasn't a particularly pleasant surprise or an easy ride for them - and that's for a non-life-threatening, reasonably easily fixed congenital condition.

On the other hand, 'designing' in it's most frivolous sense does worry me for the same reasons you described. Not sure how ridiculously important it is that your kid be blue-eyed, green-eyed or brown-eyed.

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i know a girl who is young, gorgeous, and extremely smart who had a baby with a young, handsome, smart guy...and their baby had severe cystic fibrosis. they just so happened to have the same gene that (when combined) gave them a 25% chance of having a baby with CF. they didn't know until AFTER the baby was born...if they could have tested to see, then this wouldn't have happened.

so, yes, i would definitely do this.

but NOT to chose the eye/hair color, or whatever. that is just ridiculous.  ::)

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with the way some are talking here, if we were to screen out our children for different conditions/illnesses/diseases and, hypothetically speaking, our parents had this technology, think of how many of us on this board wouldn't exist. this also seems like something for the more "privileged" people. serious mental illness runs in my family and i decided a long time ago not to reproduce. that is my "plan" for not passing it on. if i desire kids, i'll adopt one.

this is playing god (or whoever... i guess as an agnostic i don't know). illness and heartbreak are part of the human condition along with happiness and awesomeness. just because you have a "genetically perfect" kid doesn't mean bad things won't happen to them. 

it also reminds me of GE food. sure, sounds good in theory... but what is it doing to our food supply? our food?

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Hmmmm.  I'm torn. 

Yes, many of us may not have been born if this process had been used for us.  But I don't think that's significant.  There are thousands upon thousands of factors which determined that your particular zygote came to be.  I might not have been born if my parents had sex an hour later.  So what.   Whoever is born is born.  If you were never born, you wouldn't know it.  You know?

I also don't think it is ethical to knowingly create a child with high disposition for a certain disease if you are able to avoid this.  Yes, tragedies happen during and after birth that have nothing to do with genetics.  But that doesn't mean we should not prevent diseases/harmful congenital conditions when we have the capacity.  I wouldn't not vaccinate my daughter against HPV or not teach her to eat in a way that reduces her risk of heart disease and cancer because, "well, suffering happens."  Similarly, I would not bear a child knowing that she had a high chance of a certain disease.  That's awful!  And sure, I could decide not to reproduce, but the fact of the matter is that I have the basic right to reproduce, and I might choose to do so. 

That being said, I think using this process for selecting aesthetic traits is unethical, dangerous, and a waste of resources.  The whole thing is also more for the privileged, like bp said, but that's kind of a larger issue. 

Funny thing is, I can't articulate WHY I find it unethical to manipulate physical traits.  So I don't know.  I have to think more.

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Yes, many of us may not have been born if this process had been used for us.  But I don't think that's significant.  There are thousands upon thousands of factors which determined that your particular zygote came to be.  I might not have been born if my parents had sex an hour later.  So what.   Whoever is born is born.  If you were never born, you wouldn't know it.  You know?

Exactly. There is so much dependent on chance in the conception process alone that if you even get as far as cell division it's pretty good going. Plus, I think it's important to note that although I would certainly be inclined to accept screening in utero, I wouldn't not try for a baby if I wanted to be a parent. So little Suzy might not make it, but little Jeff potentially could, so to speak.

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we can knock down the % of people with "undesirable" traits but a lot of these things would require a new set of questions: what constitutes suffering? disabled? quality of life? i agree in some cases it might be very obvious (like a fetus with a condition where it would not survive on its own outside the womb or without hardcore intervention) but i like a lot of cases are really iffy. anyways, we have ways to deal with a lot of conditions and a lot of conditions are nature and nurture issues - you might be genetically predisposition to get DISEASE X but it doesn't mean you will. things like cancer have bio links but many also have lifestyle/behavior links.

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This really hits me hard.  I have two Autistic sons, beautiful little boys, and selectively aborting a baby because he/she has a less than desirable trait, be it green eyes or Downs, disgusts me.  I don't understand how anyone can say they care about an animals feelings and then go and destroy a human life. It makes no sense to me.

Also, who decides who has quality of life or requires hardcore intervention.  I have had people tell me that it would have been better if my sons had not been born, and how could I risk having a third child who might or might no have autism (time will tell).  I can tell you that my life and everyone else's is better because of my children.

It is not for us to decide who lives and dies. God takes care of that for us and I thank him every day for my beautiful, special, "different" children.

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We play god all the time in the birthing process.  We use technology to nurse premies, perform C-sections, etc.  I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and had to undergo some intense emergency treatment when I was born; if we really wanted to not play god then we should have just let me be. 

I also guess I don't consider a discarded six-cell embryo an aborted fetus.  Or maybe it is abortion, but I do not think it is unethical.  None of those embryos would have been allowed to develop anyway via natural fertilization. 

we can knock down the % of people with "undesirable" traits

So why wouldn't we want to do this?  For clear things like the cystic fibrosis that sirensong mentioned?  I mean, how would it be different if we found a cure for cystic fibrosis that we could apply later in life?  No, we can never eliminate all suffering.  Nobody made that claim.  But when I can prevent suffering, I will.  Doesn't mean that I would be uncompassionate toward people who ARE born with a disease or disability!  One does not exclude the other.    I also don't get the "well, people still get diseases anyway" argument.  Like, I might still get killed in a car accident with my seat belt on, but I'm still gonna wear it.  But yeah, shit happens.

I think an appropriate analogy is this: as vegans, many of us are compassionate toward animals who have been discarded for one reason or another.  So, we adopt animals and things like that.  But in the same breath, I'd say most vegans also support reducing the number of stray animals that are born because we recognize that those animals may suffer.  Doesn't mean we are going to be uncompassionate towards stray animals that do (and will always) exist.

I guess I don't think there is anything magical about the moment when sperm bust out into the womb and one of them happens to reach the egg (or not).  You could have sex on a Thursday instead of a Friday, and you are fooling with what genotype will result.  Big deal.  Not every packet of DNA is destined to become a human.  It's totally random.  But those are just my personal beliefs.  I don't think I believe in god choosing one sperm or another. 

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I think it is up to those with disabilities to decide if they "suffer" or not.  Just because someone has a different life than you does not mean they suffer.

Different does not mean Bad, and it does not automatically mean Disabled.  It just means different.  You may see or think disabled, but that person who has the "disability" may not feel that way.

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I think it is up to those with disabilities to decide if they "suffer" or not.  Just because someone has a different life than you does not mean they suffer.

Different does not mean Bad, and it does not automatically mean Disabled.  It just means different.  You may see or think disabled, but that person who has the "disability" may not feel that way.

I know this.  I have a disability myself, and I'm fine with it.  Would I rather not?  Yeah.  But that's life.  Of course I am not Bad because of it.

I'm not sure I understand this decision about suffering part.  There is no decision involved in suffering from (to use some examples here) cystic fibrosis or MS or diabetes or heart conditions.  I think we are lumping too many types of "conditions" together.  There is a huge difference between autism and MS or something similar.  Some are lifelong disabilities that require adaptation, and some are a death sentence.

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I think it is up to those with disabilities to decide if they "suffer" or not.  Just because someone has a different life than you does not mean they suffer.

That's exactly the point. Speaking personally, I would have a massively hard decision if I were pregnant with a cleft palated child. Judging by my own experience I would consider it borderline unethical to allow the pregnancy to continue knowing what the first twenty years of that child's life would contain. Were it a different condition, I'd be less able to make a judgement because I have no experience in the situation.

One of the benefits of screening embryos would be peace of mind; the knowledge that my child wouldn't be subject to the same trials that I was.

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I think it is up to those with disabilities to decide if they "suffer" or not.  Just because someone has a different life than you does not mean they suffer.

Different does not mean Bad, and it does not automatically mean Disabled.  It just means different.  You may see or think disabled, but that person who has the "disability" may not feel that way.

Different does NOT mean bad, I agree with that completely. My cousin and a lot of my closest friends are Deaf, and I work with the Deaf community. They do not view their Deafness as a disability at all, it's just the way they are. They have their own culture, their own language...anthropologically speaking they aren't a "disability group" they're a cultural minority who have faced lifelong oppression by hearing people who decide they "know best" and just want to "fix them". In the eyes of the Deaf, that's not a medical miracle, that's cultural genocide - and this is another scary aspect of the same attitude.

This makes me sad :( No one has the right to decide that anyone is inferior just because they are not like everyone else.

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Yes, this is a topic I have a hard time discussing, because as people have said above, where is the line, and who gets to draw it? I know many mothers of handicapped or disabled children who say that yes, it's a struggle, but they wouldn't trade their children for anything. They can see beyond the disability to the child, the person.

However having said that, I remember when I lived in the States my sister worked with a woman with two children with some sort of genetic, neurological problem that caused them to have constant, unremitting siezures. They basically had no real "life" beyond medical care and medication. When the children were 3 and 4, she decided to have another baby. Her doctor told her that there was a 95% chance that the new baby would have the same problems. He adviser her against it, her husband advised her against it. She insisted. I don't know how that played out.
But there's a difference between deciding not to procreate in the first place and choosing a child to fit whatever image you have of "perfection." That is a concept that has too much of eugenics about it.

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I think it is up to those with disabilities to decide if they "suffer" or not.  Just because someone has a different life than you does not mean they suffer.

Different does not mean Bad, and it does not automatically mean Disabled.  It just means different.  You may see or think disabled, but that person who has the "disability" may not feel that way.

Different does NOT mean bad, I agree with that completely. My cousin and a lot of my closest friends are Deaf, and I work with the Deaf community. They do not view their Deafness as a disability at all, it's just the way they are. They have their own culture, their own language...anthropologically speaking they aren't a "disability group" they're a cultural minority who have faced lifelong oppression by hearing people who decide they "know best" and just want to "fix them". In the eyes of the Deaf, that's not a medical miracle, that's cultural genocide - and this is another scary aspect of the same attitude.

This makes me sad :( No one has the right to decide that anyone is inferior just because they are not like everyone else.

Word

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this is one interesting thread. I'm not really comforable with this whole genetic manipulation thing, for some of the reasons mentioned - the main one being the lack of genetic diversity that could develop if this became a widespread practice. I feel like we humans have boxed ourselves in enough by being "civilized" and thus unable to adapt to new environments the way most animals are able to. narrowing the spectrum of genetic diversity is never really considered a positive thing in nature, and I don't think this case would be any different.

I do understand people who want to reduce suffering (isn't that why so many of us are here on a veg forum?!) I also agree that it's tough to pinpoint the moral lines to draw on this issue - ie. when is someone's quality of life so poor that their life isn't worthwhile, and how would anyone but them know it wasn't?

Another thing I wanted to point out is that although the world can seem tailored to specific groups of people ("able bodied", for instance), it's also important to think of this in terms of a societal problem instead of a problem with an individual. If you think about what it might be like to use a wheelchair or a scooter, or have to learn sign language instead of how to talk, the barriers are not within YOU for having a disability - rather, our society places these barriers in front of you (without realizing much of the time) by thinking that one common way - ie walking, or reading using vision - is the right way and doesn't offer any of the rest of the options unless they're requested etc. You may not be average, but that isn't the same as being normal. Life designed with the majority in mind will always exclude alot of people, but that doesn't mean that there is something wrong with those people. Society just doesn't cater to them the way it does to others, &  that is a problem that I think we should try to improve.

That said, I think this kind of diversity - the existence of people who have varying experiences and perceptions of the world - is valuable. I don't think anyone can really decide for somebody else whether their life is worse because they don't share the same experiences of the world as some others do.

This all seems garbled to me, I'm so tired, and there doesn't seem to be a clear point I'm trying to get at...but overall, the idea of 'designer babies' just kind of creeps me out. The ethics around it really need to be made clear for me, I think, before I'd even consider something like this. (Then again, I've never wanted kids)... great discussion going on here.

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