In this modern society, human thought are growing widely resulting the huge development of reproductive technologies in our life. Designer babies are created for elimination of deadly diseases and also genetic enhancement. Today, this technology has been established as an acceptable practice in removing diseases only. However, when it comes to genetic enhancements, ethical issues happen in the aspects of individuals, society and religions.
According to Johnson (2009), ‘designer baby’ is defined as the baby whose genetically makeup has been artificially selected through In-vitro Fertilization to ensure the presence and absence of particular genes or characteristic. Johnson (2009) also claimed that genetic screening can reduce the baby’s chances of getting several diseases like Down syndrome.
According to Brownlee (2002), in the mid-1990s, an embryologist named Jacques Cohen created a promising new technique, cytoplasmic transfer for helping infertile women to have children. In early 2003, he reported the first modification in the human genome. Cohen (2003) has created the first bioengineered baby who has three genetic parents which are mother, father, and mtDNA donor and they claimed that as “The first case of human [inheritable] genetic modification resulting in normal, healthy children.”
According to Adnan (2010), designer babies are made in in-vitro fertilization with certain steps. Firstly, the woman hormones are taken to boost the production of egg. The woman’s egg is then removed from the ovary with the help of a special needle. The egg is fertilized and is allowed to grow into an embryo for 2 days. Scientists then screen for genes which have the risk of illness in life like Alzheimer’s, Cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome. The DNA copies are run through by using a sequencing machine. If the genetic disorder appears, those defected genes can be replaced with the healthy genes in a process called germ line therapy. Besides, scientists are able to determine the sex of the child. This is possible because woman contains only X chromosomes and man has one X and one Y chromosome. So the sex of the child can be determined by XY chromosomes.
According to Tesia (2009), parents are the people who want designer baby, especially those who have an unhealthy embryo affected by deadly diseases. This is a relief to these parents as they need not to be burdened up by the expensive fees for the endless treatments that their child has to undergo of choosing by the designer baby. They choose to have a designer baby as it can avoid all the pain that they have to bear seeing their child undergoing endless suffering treatments. Designer baby also prevent their child from having a preventable disease and this will definitely relieve those parents from the financial, emotional and physical burden.
Agar (2006) claimed that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis PGD is not entirely risk-free as during the process of PGD. Two cells are removed from the eight cells embryo and this may affect the growth of the embryo, whereas defenders of PGD respond that the cells of eight-cell embryos are totipotent, this mean that the eight cells embryo is still able to form all cells of the human body although two cells is removed from it. This technology has been used for a very long time, hence it is too early to say that who is certainly right in this argument.
In an article written by Naik (2009), he stated that in a 2009 U.S. survey, a total of 999 people sought for genetic counseling. Most of people supported prenatal genetic tests for the removal of serious diseases. Besides, according to the survey conducted by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine, some respondents said they would want genetic testing for athletic ability, some voted for improved height and some voted for great intelligence.
According to Dvorsky(2009), an excellent transhumanist bioethicist, he stated that an anti-genetic modification due to enhancement occurred in our society. A majority were replying the survey carried out by NYU Langone Medical Center due to their background condition. Their thinking was believed from an ethical perspective. Supporting the idea of genetic modification, Dvorsky(2009) said that endowing our children with good genes in order to give them an enriched and fulfilling life. With new genetics, parents’ dreams may finally be achieved as they always want the best for their children.
According to Anissimov(2009), many people refuse to accept PGD and other reproductive technologies because they think that it is unnatural. From the Transhumanist FAQ, a summary from transhumanists’ response stated that in many cases, there are some practical reasons for depending on natural processes. The main point is that human cannot decide whether something is good or bad by its nature. Not every natural things are good such as starvation, polio, and being eaten alive by intestinal parasites whereas some bad unnatural things are car accidents and nuclear war.
However, Yin (2005) notes that from a child’s point of view, parents place the genetic enhancements upon him or her may threaten the freedom of action. The child’s achievement in life is not fully determined by his or her own efforts, but from parental decisions. This might result in unwillingness of the child to accept responsibilities.
Besides, Yin (2005) also states that some oppose genetic engineering because it will not only deepen current class divisions, but also create a new division. Due to religious and other personal reasons, many people will refuse to accept gene therapy even if the enhancements are made free because it causes the economic gap between those can afford the technology and cannot afford deepen as time progresses. Some of them reject it due to its expensive paid and lack of efficacy.
According to Adnan (2010), the designer baby will raise conflict among individuals. This is because they assume that the rich will always be more beneficial compared to the poor. They propose that the rich will have more opportunities to take the advantages of the modern technology resulting the rich man baby (designer baby) will born perfect, intelligent and healthier compared to the poor baby. Though this technology can advance the personalities and intelligence, but it will be costly and will create a gap between the individuals.
McIlwaine (2006) claimed that some leading philosophers will argue that a person must have capacity for memorable experiences, for communicating with others and for having preferences about continued life, or someone who is capable of treasuring their own life. With these points of view, these obviously show that they do not accept an embryo, or a foetus can be a person. For those who believe that human life only comes with self-valuation, testing on embryos and the screening of the right genetic make-up is a perfectly ethical procedure, for those embryos that are discarded are not ‘people’. So, there is no wrong in moral. However, this raises serious issues about other human beings who may by this definition, not be ‘people’ including the new born babies with brain abnormalities and injuries.
According to McIlwaine (2006), designer babies also lead to ethical issues in religion too. This is due to different religions will have their own points of view. Christians say that the life begins at conception. It is clearly stated in Bible: “Before you were in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart”. This means that God chose each person even before the moment of implantation, however some are less certain. According to Malpani (2009), in Judaism, donor insemination is banned and a child is considered as the generation of the biological father. Artificial insemination using husband’s sperm and IVF are accepted when there is necessary to cure the illness of infertility.
From the research done, designer babies have arisen many ethical issues in the aspects of individuals, religions and society. Parents always hope to give the best for their children. With this advanced technology, some parents will take advantage on it to give their children the perfect lives. This will indirectly cause the narrowing of divisions in our society which is from social to ethical and then to economical. The rich families are usually genetically better endowed than the poor families and their jobs always come with high income compared to the poor one. As for the religious aspect, Christians note that personhood begins at conception, the moment an ovum is fertilized. However, there is variation in explaining the Bible and not everyone believe in it. Some doubt about this because if the number of lost fertilized ovum disobey this point of view, then how could the God stop the existence of some “people” in this world without any reason?