Inflammatory headline alert!
We all know that scientific advancements can bring up ethical dilemmas but I’m a bit skeptical of Duke University geneticist, David Goldstein’s conclusion that parents will be clamoring for “designer babies” as soon as we can just pick and choose those traits we find most desirable and terminate pregnancies willy-nilly when we don’t have that blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy in our uterus. In reality –
By 2020, researchers will have discovered many more genetic variations that substantially raise the risk of common conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and psychiatric disorders, and it will be possible to detect these in embryos, he said.
Do you know anyone who would terminate a pregnancy if genetic testing showed an increased likelihood of diabetes or bipolar disorder? It’s hard to imagine since most parents receiving genetic counseling and testing are most likely carrying a wanted child. These tests can, however, be helpful to recognize and treat children earlier than you would normally be able to using traditional methods of symptom identification. If you can adjust your child’s diet from birth rather than treating with insulin injections after years of not recognizing the disease, or be alert for signs of schizophrenia and begin treatment before the disease progresses, that’s a good thing.
Certainly there will be some people out there might use genetic testing in a distasteful manner – there are unethical people no matter what the circumstances. And I’m not trying to diminish the negative effect of sex selection in other cultures, but if you’re using abortion to dispose of your baby girl these scientific advancements are not influencing your decisions.
It’s doubtful learning about a higher risk for disease will cause a future parent to throw in the towel and try again for a “better” baby. After all, you’re still working with what you’ve got; and if you’ve got heart disease in your family it’s not going away just because you terminate every embryo that might be in danger of carrying on this family trait. I trust most people undergoing genetic testing understand this fact.
It’s a new decade, how about we embrace science instead of fearing progress? Yes? Yes!