'Designer babies' is a term that was coined by journalists, not doctors, and is an uncomplimentary one to question the ethics and implications of 'messing about with nature'.
Are Designer Babies Ethical?
While the purpose of creating designer or genetically designed babies was to eliminate potential health risks, a lot of ethical issues have been raised as this technology has been advancing day by day. Read more about the debate surrounding the creation of designer babies in the following paragraphs.
Whenever human beings try to interfere with the laws of nature, it is likely to have some benefits, but not without some greater flaws. It’s believed that nature should be allowed to take its course of action, and that interfering with this course is not humane. Yet, to ensure the survival of our race, we have tried everything from animal testing to designer babies. As is the case with every such endeavor, there are various pros and cons of the latter technology too.
These babies were created for a very simple reason: to eliminate any genes in an embryo that would cause serious health concerns, and to replace these defective genes with healthy ones. Embryos are screened to check for the presence of any genetic disorders in them by means of a technology known as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This is possible only when parents wish to give birth to a baby by means of In Vitro Fertilization or IVF, or a test tube baby, where it is possible to locate such disorders. As such, once these genes are detected, they are eliminated from the embryo to ensure the birth of a healthy baby.
As mentioned earlier, a huge debate has arisen about how ethical designer babies are. Whether they are ethical or not is for you to decide, after you look at the ethical issues that surround the process of creating babies for a purpose. While some believe that this procedure to be a boon, others consider it to be a bane on humanity in the long run.
Ethical Issues with Designer Babies
Before we begin our discussion on whether or not this technology is ethical, let’s clarify how the term ‘designer babies’ was coined. In effect, these are babies that are genetically designed in order to avoid any health concerns. However, because of this ability, and the concerns raised on the ethics of such a practice, the term ‘designer babies’ was given colloquially by journalists to such babies. In the year 2003, a couple in the UK gave birth to a genetically designed baby boy, whose stem cells from the umbilical cord would be used to treat a blood disorder in his older brother, which was potentially life-threatening.
The ethical issue here was that the new-born baby himself had no dignity of life, as he was brought into this world with the purpose of saving his older brother, and not because the couple really wanted another child. Also, the fact that several human embryos were rejected before an accurate tissue match was found seemed inhuman to many. Though there is a positive aspect to this entire situation, the question of ethical concerns arises from the fact that they are brought into the world with a specific purpose with pre-decided human genetics, and not naturally as other children are born.
Since a lot of problems can be weeded out from an embryo, and different aspects from the baby can be determined, this practice, also popularly known as gene therapy, can also help to decide the gender of the baby. Over time, this technology will be used not only to determine the gender, but also the height, appearance, eye color, hair color, IQ, and every other aspect, which can be decided before the birth of the baby. This is what is meant by interfering with the law of nature.
When everything is predetermined there is no room for uniqueness. Critics then believe that such methods of genetic engineering can result in the creation of a whole new race of people. This may seem far-fetched as of now, but over time as this technology becomes more easily available to people, it is definitely a possibility.
Moreover, not everyone will be able to afford this technology, which means those who are born naturally will be considered as social outcasts, and those with hereditary disorders will face the same destiny. While those who are born with such conditions are already considered as ‘different’, imagine the impact it will have on an artificially designed race with the same IQ and appearance, and how these ‘different’ human beings will be treated.
We have already seen gender and class discrimination, but this debate about designer babies raises a very crucial concern regarding ‘gene discrimination’. This concern rests on the basis of pre-designed, as well as natural genes, and is bound to occur when such a practice becomes commonplace. It is likely to create a greater rift in society, when the rich can afford this technology but the poor cannot.
Finally, after learning about all the ethical concerns regarding designer babies, it is for you to decide whether or not you believe the conception of a perfect baby by unnatural means ethical or unethical. In any case, before you opt for this procedure, you must have a valid reason, and get legal permission to do so. However, as is the case with all technological procedures, it is likely that this procedure will become much simpler over time, and that you will have easier access to it.
Just keep in mind that something that sounds perfect may not always be so perfect. This process can give birth to a new condition that may never have been heard of before. When critics and experts suggest that it is wiser not to interfere with the natural course of things, there is a reason behind it. These ethical issues were discussed to explain to you, both sides of the same coin. The one you choose to believe in and follow is finally your choice.