Essay: Gene engineering – draft

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In 1990 PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis) was introduced to allow couples at risk of passing on a serious genetic disease to have children not affected by it. Examples of such conditions are Down’s syndrome, sickle cell, Tay-Sach disease, Huntington’s chorea and cystic fibrosis.
Genetic selection can take place on embryos before placing them into a woman’s uterus Prenatal screening on foetuses inside the uterus is also a kind of genetic selection procedures. With PGD the genes of embryos are tested for the presence of sequences linked to several conditions and characteristics. Only embryos with the desired genes are places into the uterus. PGH (Preimplantation Genetic Haplotyping) is a variation on PGD, which is more accurate and can test many more genes.
An increase in pre-embryonic and pre-natal screening for alternate reasons is observed. These reasons include (social) sex selection, creating ‘savior siblings’ (providing transplant tissues to sick older siblings) and selecting against embryos with genes correlated with non-fatal and late-onset conditions. There are even clinics that have offered the technique purely for cosmetic traits (hair and eye colour and skin complexion). (http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/section.php?id=82&qty=10&all=1)
On one side there are people embracing the opportunity to select the genes for their children. On the other hand there are people strongly condemning these developments in pre-embryonic and pre-natal screening, especially disability rights advocates.
Blablabla, therefore we will discuss our following statement.
‘Gene selection must only be used to ensure the quality of a human life’
Discussion
It’s complicated, because of ethical and social aspects therefore we’ll talk about the pro’s and the con’s first
Different point of views (1111 words)
Perfectionist
Written by: Sevda
Checked by:
Not yet checked by: Corneel, Daphne
Natural selection causes heritable phenotypic traits to become either more or less common in a population. Individuals with characteristics most suited to the environment are more likely to reproduce and survive. In this base, the human nature always attempts to be perfect during entire life as well. From beginning of life, human enhancement is going toward of being perfect, simple and pleasure life.
The gene engineering is one of human enhancement, which helps human to choose the interest genes for having the better life.
Gene selection can be helpful to screen genetic disorders and chromosomal abnormalities.
The purpose of gene selection should be either to prevent the birth of the babies showing genetic disorders or to terminate their lives ones they have already been born. So gene selection can play a role in eliminating genetic disorders from the population by genetic counseling of the parents who carry the defect genes.
Gene selection can lead to have children with potentialities that are higher than average. The process eliminates the genes that don’t meet the standard of the species.
In the reproductive gene selection, we can have two points of view, one of these is to have the best and ideal child and other is preventing of diseases and disables child.
‘ Couples (or single reproducers) should select the child, of the possible children they could have, who is expected to have the best life, or at least as good a life as the others, based on the relevant, available information ‘ -Savulescu 2001.
According to these views, if we consider two different couples that wants gene selection for their future child, a couple that has the defect or mutant disabled genes in their family history and wants to have a healthy child ‘as good as others’ in the versus of couples who wants to improve the physical appearances like eye colors and intelligence child.
Of course first couples wishes are more acceptable because of if their child born with physical disorders, the life could be difficult for that child and in the other hand the care and health insurance costs will be higher for the parents as well as for the society, because this kind of individuals need special care.
Second couple also wants reproductive gene selection for their child if this one is also in the category of perfectionist view?
For answer of this question we need following examples:
‘The Wine Capacity Case: Suppose that a couple is having in vitro fertilization (IVF) in an attempt to have a child. The process produces two embryos. A battery of tests for common diseases is performed, and it is found that Embryo A has no abnormalities on the tests performed, except that its genetic profile reveals that it has a predisposition to be able to enjoy super fine wine; and Embryo B has no abnormalities on the tests performed except its genetic profile reveals it has a predisposition to be able to enjoy very fine wine, but not super fine wine. Let us assume that being able to enjoy super fine wine over very fine wine gives Embryo A a better chance to have the best life. Which embryo should be implanted?
On the Perfectionist View, Embryo B has nothing to be said in its favour over A, while Embryo A has something to be said in its favour over B. So, on the Perfectionist View, other things being equal, there is a prima facie obligation to implant Embryo A. But it is difficult to see how there could be an obligation, even a prima facie one, to choose A over B in this case. Advocates of the Perfectionist View might reply that given that it is agreed that Embryo A will have a better chance of having a better life than Embryo B, surely, there is some reason to prefer Embryo A to B. However, it seems that the notion of reason here is ambiguous. It could be a reason for a prima facie obligation, that is, something that, other things being equal, one ought to do; or a supererogatory reason, that is, something that is good to do but that there is no obligation to do. To illustrate this distinction, consider the following:
The Blind Lady Case: Suppose that you have the option of helping a blind lady to cross a street or helping the blind lady to cross the street and getting her a free ice cream. The blind lady loves ice cream and would be very happy if she had ice cream. Someone just across the street is giving away ice cream for free, and it is no trouble for you to get her some.
There is certainly a reason to help the lady to cross the street. In addition, there may also be a reason to help get ice cream for the lady, since it would make her very happy. But arguably, the two reasons are not the same. The reason to help the lady cross the street looks to be a prima facie obligation, that is, something that, other things being equal, one ought to do. However, the reason to help get ice cream for the lady looks at best to be a supererogatory reason, that is, something that is good to do but that there is no obligation to do. In the Wine Capacity Case, it seems that the reason to prefer Embryo A to B is also something that is good to do but that there is no obligation to do. If this is right, one can grant that there is a reason to prefer Embryo A to B without accepting that this is a reason for a prima facie obligation. If so, the Wine Capacity Case does not seem to support the Perfectionist View. ‘ -Buchanan, Brock, Daniels, and Wikler 2000-S.Matthew Lia 2008
To have child with better physically appearance is not helpful to the eliminate disorders populations, this is only whishes of parents to have a child with such a appearance but people value different and maybe a person who born with this appearance would not like those.
One of the other views is gene selections could reduce genetic diversity, for example if we engineer perfect children in the way that be intelligence, beautiful and physically same appearance the world would be a sterile place where everyone is the same and the surprise of the life is gone which we do not discuss this point of view here.
At the end, we can say that it isn’t possible to create perfect children from all aspects; we can only attempt to create next generation with opportunities of better life and without genetic disorders and disability.
Libertarian or Human Nature View (716 words)
Written by: Daphne
Checked by:
Not yet checked by: Sevda, Corneel
Liberty
Every being has been given the freedom to make choices. So morally, human beings are allowed to select their own offspring. People are perfectly capable to make well considered choices. Thus they may choose to select genes or to let nature take its course.
According to Robertson in any conflict about gene selection procreative liberty should be granted. (Robertson, 1994, 24) Parfit has a less permissive point of view. He pleads for liberty to create ‘a life worth living’. In his opinion gene selection is a way to create life that contains positive values (quality of life). (Parfit 1984, part IV)
With the views of Parfit, new questions arise such as: What can be understood as a ‘life worth living’? It will be very difficult to decide in advance if a certain child should be brought to life. Glover argues that if a child is glad to be alive, it couldn’t have been a life that should have been prevented. (Glover, 2006, 57) From this point of view even a life full of pain might be worth living, as long as the person living it is glad to be alive.
We agree with this more permissive point of view. When the birth of a child with a serious genetic disease can be prevented and a healthy child can be born instead, this is a better option. This isn’t only morally desirable but also socially and economically. However, gene selection to influence the phenotype of a child goes a step too far. Life is not a computer game: if people desperately want to design persons, they should play ‘The Sims’. http://www.thesims.com/
Human Nature
In the opinion of many people, one should not mess with nature. The gift nature should be appreciated. Sandal even describes it as a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, because with gene selection we try to satisfy our desires and serve our purposes. (Sandal 2004 and 2007) Fukuyama states that people fear biotechnology because they are afraid that humanity will be lost. (Fukuyama 2002, 101)
But what exactly defines humanity? And as we evolve, does this definition change? As the world changes, so do people. In this new world genetic modification might not only be desirable but it might even be necessary. Without it human kind might not survive.
From this point of view it can be considered if it’s necessary to keep the current human nature as it is. Is it really that special? Bernard Williams writes about this subject:
‘There are certain respects in which creatures are treated in one way rather than another simply because they belong to a category, the human species’ (Williams 2008)
According to Peter Singer this is unjustified. This way of thinking can even be compared to racism and sexism. (Singer 1993)
In the discussion of gene selection the limits should also be discussed. When changing the genetic information, should we stay inside the lines of the species? Allen Buchanan uses the analogy of paining on a canvas to make his point is this discussion.
‘If we are limited to a particular canvas, we can only create a painting that fits within its boundaries and we should take that into account in deciding what to paint ‘ on it. But if we have the option of using a different canvas, then there will be other possibilities, if we choose to paint on it. Recognizing that a given canvas limits the artistic good we can achieve does not imply that we should refrain from changing canvasses; on the contrary, it suggests that we should at least consider using a different one, if we can.’ – (Buchanan 2009)
Translating this to genetic engineering, this would mean that there should be no boundaries. Try out to see what is possible and we might achieve great things.
In our opinion, this is a step too far. When there are no limits to the enhancement that can be made, human wouldn’t be equal anymore. The relatively small differences we have nowadays, would become immensely. There would be no fair competitions, making it inevitable for people to produce even more enhanced children. Hertbert Spencers term ‘survival of the fittest’ (http://archives.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/detail.aspx) would get a different meaning. ‘Survival of the most enhanced or best engineered genes’ will be a more appropriate expression in that case.
Motivation (1029 words)
Written by: Corneel
Checked by: sevda, Daphne
Not yet checked by: –
With the ability of designing your own children, it is not only the human lives that are created that need to be evaluated. The parents making the choice to design their children, should be evaluated too. What is their motivation, to select the genes of their future children? What does the need to tackle the mystery that birth gives, make of these people? Sandel is a prominent spokesperson for a version of this view:
‘Even if this disposition does not make parents tyrants to their children, it disfigures the relation between parent and child, and deprives the parent of the humility and enlarged human sympathies that an openness to the unbidden can cultivate.’ – Sandel 2007
Sandel here speaks about the use of genetic modification for the use of enhancement. To treat illness, he is more forgiving:
‘medical intervention to cure or prevent illness…does not desecrate nature but honours it. Healing sickness or injury does not override a child’s natural capacities but permits them to flourish’ – Sandel 2004
For Sandel, people who would use gene selection for enhancing a (unborn) child to design it as they please are monsters, but if gene selection is used to prevent or cure illness these future parents are portrait as saints who honour the miracle of life.
However, the boundary between enhancement and therapy is hard to distinguish. Therefore as a future parent, the boundary between being a monster and being a saint is foggy as well. So to be able to distinguish what is morally acceptable in the eyes of Sandel, for gene selection, we should define the border between enhancement and therapy, which is another discussion.
Frances Kamm has less problems with human enhancement through gene selection before the person is born. She states that being motivated to chance a person before he is born does not show a lack of respect (or as Sandel would put it, show a lack of love) for the unborn child, since the child is not born yet and thus does not exist. (Kamm, 2005)
To support this claim, Kamm gives an example of how someone comes to love someone else. Before you love the person that you love, you are interested in this person because of some properties that this person has, such as kindness or intelligence. Kamm argues it is not immoral to ‘search for properties other than the basic ones in a child’. As long as you end up loving the person and not his (generated) traits.
However, S. Matthew Liao argues that ones love can be tainted. He recalls that before you come to love someone, you are interested in that person for whatever reason. Liao states that this love is tainted if the reason for being interested in a person is ‘wrong’. For example: if you are interested in a person for his money or his political power, and then after come to love this person. Such a relationship is tainted because of the initial morally dubious motivation. (Liao, 2008)
According to Liao, the same goes for human enhancement. If, for example, through gene selection, you design a strong male with a lust for physical labour, just because this will be helpful on your farm, this would be morally dubious. It would then not matter how much you love your son, the relationship that is build with your son would always be ‘tainted’, as you ‘became interested’ for the wrong reason.
To determine what is ‘wrong’ Liao proposes the following explanation:
‘The wrong here involves a wrong that harms a relationship and then indirectly the particular individuals in that relationship.’ – Liao, 2008
In the example of the farmers’ son, the farmer is not primarily motivated to control reproduction, but he is wrongly motivated to gain free labour on his farm. This is another disprove of enhancement than Sandel shows, who implies that whenever someone seeks to control reproduction in enhancement cases, one is acting wrongly. Laio calls this view the Hubristic Motivation View, and defines The Weak Hubristic Motivation View:
‘It is not morally permissible to engage in selection if one has a strongly hubristic motivation to control reproduction in enhancement cases or if one has inappropriate motivations; and if one only has a weak motivation to love a selected child for the child’s own sake.’ – Liao, 2008
Liao argues that as we allow parents to let their unborn child listen to Mozart to develop the child’s appreciation for music, such a thing should also be allowed in terms of genetic enhancement. The Weak Hubristic Motivation View would permit couples who love their child for their own sake and would use Mozart to give the child a head start in its musical development. However it would not permit the parents to play Mozart to their still-in-the-womb offspring all day long with the intent of enhancing the offspring’s appreciation for music so that the offspring may become a musical genius, but in which the parents care very little, if at all, about the welfare of the offspring. (Liao, 2008)
With this view it is easy to agree, as enhancements of this kind are influential in the well-being of a person: it has a head start in his development, while it does not interfere with the love of a parent for it’s child. As with Sandel’s argument for genetic treatment, these enhancement could also be seen as a honour to life, since it tend to ensure the persons well-being. As for Liao’s example with Mozart, it could prevent a person from growing up as tone-deaf.
However, it prevents the natural growth of a person’s music development and someone who is does not care about music can find more focus and time to spend on the development of other skills. Thus as a parent, even with something as letting your unborn child listen to Mozart, you are not just giving your child an advantage, or prevent it from having a weakness and lack of self-confidence you’re already guiding it in a direction you prefer for your child. This is why we agree with Sandel, that gene selection of any kind that is not to prevent serious illness, should be considered as immoral.
Conclusion (a few hundreds words)
Selecting the genes for your children is cool.
References
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