Sep 18, 2006

Brown-Eyed Baby, Anyone?

While checking Firefox's starred items (I'm too lazy to get rss feeds), I found another example of EICTE (everything is connected to everything), feeding my holistic conviction.

The article is about the slippery slope of PGD practice. PGD stands for preimplantation genetic diagnosis (предимплантационна генетична диагностика, както го преведох в един документален филм). The practice involves biopsy of an embryo from in-vitro fertilization, at different stages of development, often on the third day after fertilization. One cell is removed and tested for genetic diseases, and other criteria. If the embryo 'passes the test', it's implanted and results in a baby (hopefully, as many in-vitro pregnancies are unsuccessful), if not, the embryos face a dire fate.

The procedure leads to a healthier individual, and often is life-saving for a sibling with certain diseases. The older sibling is treated with blood cells from the umbilical cord of the new baby. The tested cell can also be used to establish a stem cell line, which some feel is less objectionable stem cell generation method, than using embryos. This cell would be discarded, if it is unused.

The ethical implication of this technique involves the possibility of parents to request screening for all kinds of 'undesirable' characteristics of their future children. In the documentary I saw, there was a deaf couple who used PGD to discard a *hearing* baby because they wanted a deaf one. Sex selection for 'family balancing' reasons is becoming more and more common.

Which leads us again to the question: do we OWN our children? What are we allowed to do to the ball of tissue they are before they become humans? Of course, many claim that they ARE humans from conception on. I don't know - the potential for humanity is there, for sure. However, investment in this kind of research is so expensive, that this type of screening will be introduced soon for whoever can afford it. We all want perfect children, and if we cannot give them perfection the 'natural' way (ahem), we resort to heavy intervention, to ensure they are disease-free and the right sex now; intelligent, blue-eyed, and musically gifted soon enough.

Personally, I'd go for brown-eyed, for a change;)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's helluva difference between making sure you avoid genetic diseases and choosing among different features for a sane individual.

I sympathise to the idea of eliminating diseases. There are too many sick people in the world already. Which is to say that yes, we would then void humanity from the genius of so many genetically burdened masterminds (history knows a lot of examples), but still.

I don't, however, support the choice of sex, eye colour, etc. I see this as unnecessarily dangerous to the balance in the world population.

There are areas where the border between a natural feature and a disease is vague. Shall we go into them or keep the discussion general?

- W.

Hazel Baggins said...

@ W
I, too, approve of earrly genetic screening for diseases. It is much better and easier on the parent's conscience than amniocentesis which is currently the prevailing method for genetic testing. It is done somewhere in mid-pregnancy (16-20 week). Guess what you do in the event of diagnosis of a disease^^.


My concern is that it is a gold mine for genetic science. The public can be easily manipulated to pay for this procedure, driven by the eternal desire for perfection. I would like kids with perfect vision for example, as I am short-sighted. And while you are at it, please could you make them brown-eyed? No, there is no border,in my view.

You are making an interesting point about the genius gene which is often linked with the madness gene:) I hadn't thought about it. Remember the price and the prize?

Anonymous said...

I am not making a point about geniality being a gene. No no.
What I am trying to say is that genetically burdened people, too, can live their lives in ways that matter, ways that can greatly benefit humanity. It is a statistically provable fact, and I wouldn't investigate the causes for it (it's an other subject).
We're close to touching on chaos theory here, so I'll stop for the time being. There's no way for us to conceive of all the consequences of such cleansing of the genetic pool.

Oh, and there is a very clear border between short-sightedness (disease) and eye colour (preference). So this example doesn't work. I'd give homosexuality as an example, as it is still considered by some UNeducated people to be a disease, so the border is thinner in this case.

Also, how about a crooked nose or other common perceptions of uglyness? Would we treat them as diseases? This is different than choosing eye colour, because no eye colour is considered ugly "objectively", while a long and crooked nose certainly is.

Another aspect: take predisposition to obesity or any other condition which is rather a potential threat, a risk factor, but which does not necessarily develop into disease. What do we do then? There is the threat to become obese, but there's also the chance that the kid will find another way.

In our strife for perfection, shall we take every challenge away from our progeny's lives?

Err... Have you seen Serenity? :)


- W.

P.S. Interesting subject, thanks for bringing it up. I like how it can be broken to many different topics of discussion. Move to MAS?

Hazel Baggins said...

No, I haven't seen Serenity, nor Gattaca:)

The border I was referring to was between improvement of a sick person by negating the *minus* of a disease, and the improvement of a healthy person, by adding a *plus*. And the eye example is there only because it's one of my favorite parts of the body:D

Well, this post was just for introducing PGD to non-MAS readers of the blog. I think we discussed the issue at one point, but we might as well repeat. Repetition is the mother of whatever:)

And yes, homosexuality *is* a disease. Depending on your definition of disease:P It's a much more stretchable definition than the definition of a planet, mind you;)

Anonymous said...

its NOT a disease!
It's a fenomenon not quite understood or explained yet.
It's found in other species too so it could be quite natural. It may be genetically determined too, or it may be psychologically based.
It's _relatively_ uncommont but that says it all doesn't it - relatively :P

/ffox

Hazel Baggins said...

@ ffox
There are quite a lot of relatively uncommon diseases, some - genetically determined, others with 'etiology - unclear'(omg I remember medical jargon:/), still others - psychologically based. Mm?

Natural, you say?;) You *know* the effect this word has on me:P

Btw you should be happy I call it a disease. I could have called it a sin:)

Anonymous said...

i'm not happy - both words translate to one concept when they come from you, or so do i understand it.

it is not a disease because it does not hinder the being that experiences it. social implications don't count because they vary.

/ffox

Hazel Baggins said...

@ ffox
Disease and sin are emphatically not the same thing. MAS please:)

Anonymous said...

You can't go with "sin" because sin is a matter of choice. Sexuality isn't.
Busted! (Like we'd care anyway.)

- W.

Hazel Baggins said...

@ W
Gone with the sin, my darling;)

I examine the issue from a different viewpoint altogether, it's ffox who urged me to tease her:)

ikew said...

" In the documentary I saw, there was a deaf couple who used PGD to discard a *hearing* baby because they wanted a deaf one."


o_O

... да си бяха взели куче...

Hazel Baggins said...

@ ikew
I kept waiting for someone to comment on this particular sentence. ^_^
Thanks.

ikew said...

предполагам, че всички го игнорираха до сега по тази причина...

Мен ме изби на хейтърство и се наложи да си пусна една флаш игричка, преди да коментна :)

Нав said...

Де да имаше подобен лек и за човешката глупост . .

Anonymous said...

A, то няма какво да му се коментира на това. Всички ще сме на едно мнение и няма да изскочи заека на спора от тоя храст. Та затова, предполагам, го игнорваме всички :)

- W.