The term “designer baby” means a baby whose genetic configuration has been artificially chosen by advance genetic engineering together with in vitro fertilization to set the presence or absence of specific genes and characteristic. In a more straight forward terms, using genetic enhancement to pre-select baby’s characteristics before they even born yet. Some of the traits that could be changed in “designer babies” include gender, appearance, intelligence, disease, and personality. The whole process involves something called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Embryos are generated by in-vitro fertilization and removed when it reached the eight- cell stage.The scientist then inspects the DNA of these cells for imperfection, and only normal embryos are returned to the womb. While PGD holds big promises to reduce the risk of genetic diseases, reduces the possibility of inherited medical conditions and even can provide a child genes that the parents do not carry, the only questions arise are is it morally acceptable?
Research for making designer babies originally use in animals to create a higher quality livestock by improving its genetic and life span. A mother who wanted to have a child without risking an affected pregnancy or later abortion will seek for PGD. PGD gives the chance for “designed child” to totally eliminate the risk of getting family inherited disease and allow them to be genetically superior than their parents. It also helps parents to alleviate financial and emotional strain when protecting their children from disease and deformities. The PGD in Mill’s Utilitarianism is morally permissible as it reduce suffering for both the child and the parents. Parents who want their children to have blue eyes, 6 feet tall, and high intelligence are now able to do it. Although this sounds egocentric, all parents have the right to prepare the best for their children to later succeed in life. The moral rightness of PGD is truly shown in giving them the opportunity to better themselves and their children in a way that cannot be done before.
Secondly, let’s look at human civilization as a single entity. The preimplantation genetic diagnosis to create designer babies might be the key to a higher standard of human civilization. Allowing the PGD technology to be perfected over time, such that the probability of having certain genes and characteristic are maximized at 100 percent chance, we might open up to a brand new world. Just imagine a world without anyone having Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, Down Syndrome, while gaining higher population IQ, physical strength, and resistance to diseases. Looking at a bigger picture, human civilization will have the potential to function exceptionally and contribute the best for humanity. At some point in future, we have to agree with science that earth is over populated, over polluted, and do not have enough resources to sustain everyone forever. As Darwin mentioned “survival of the fittest”, the continued existence of life that are best adapted to their environment with the extinction of others, PGD is vital to ensure that the human civilization continues its survival for the next millennium. PGD should be morally accepted if we look it this way as it serves the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
However, pro-life supporter will argue that PGD is morally accepted for several reasons. First, let’s look at the moral standing of an embryo. On a pro-life stand, embryo having a moral status that starts with deserving care and preservation and increases as the fertilized egg grows into more human-like. There is scale of life value of an embryo depending on its phase of life, therefore, there are degrees of respect that need to be shown to that life at those phases. Based on the Kantian’s view, embryos must be treated as ends in themselves, not as means to someone else’s end. Therefore, the life of the human embryo need to be secured because it has a worth to the embryo itself. Using the embryo for the benefit of others easily makes PGD morally wrong.
Secondly, the ethical judgement of choosing traits of an offspring itself is ethically wrong, as it leads to social discrimination. PGD is not all about removing imperfect genes from embryos, some clinics introduced cosmetic PGD where parents can choose genes for eye and hair color and even sex in exchange for money. The facts that the technology accessibility depends on the financial status of a family could create disparities in society. Say being tall is favorable and only the rich can afford to have a genetically tall kids, then, obviously, this is morally unacceptable. The social discrimination of PGD for the future life of a baby also brings consequentialist into the issue. We all know the baby has no choice in the matter. PGD without a doubt raises the odds of McGee’s five deadly sins to occur. Parents might use their children to satisfy their own agenda. Overbearing parents can reduce the child to an instrument of their own ambitions or insecurities. Therefore, there will be a loss in the individuality of the children.
All of all, designer babies are a very controversial subject. There are many ways to look at their benefits and consequences and I chose to evaluate this issue from the Utilitarianism and Kant’s philosophical view. I personally would stand with the belief that preimplantation genetic diagnosis to create designer babies is morally permissible. Although the moral reasoning of using PGD to better human civilization itself is breaching the conventional boundary of what is morally permissible and what not, I believe that there should be a law implemented for PGD to ensure it morally brings out the best of science to humanity. First is to outline specification for laboratory competency and accuracy. Second is to make counseling a necessity as a part of all PGD practice and lastly to obligate all clinics offering PGD to disclose a long term report in a standardized manner to a publicly accessible record to ensure the well-being of the children created and to evaluate their effect on families.
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