Designer Babies - Pros and Cons

A designer baby is a term coined by journalists rather than medical professionals. It describes advanced reproductive technologies that allow parents to screen and select healthy embryos. The concept of designer babies and pregnant gene screening is a highly controversial one in terms of ethically correct behavior.  Designer babies have been said by critics to be an unethical form of eugenics and genetic engineering.

Through the use of highly advanced techniques involving InVitro Fertilization or IVF, the genetically screened eggs are fertilized with sperm in test tubes in a laboratory, rather than naturally in the womb. The use of these techniques helps doctors and parents to reduce the odds of a child being born with genetic defects.

With the advances in scientific knowledge of the human genome and man’s ability to modify genes, and change the gene structure, it is possible to choose cosmetic characteristics for babies, thus being able to create genetically selected babies using pregnant gene screening. At present, the law permits only two types of reproductive technologies to be used. One procedure allows the selection of the type of sperm used to fertilize an egg and is used for determining sex and genes of the baby. The other procedure involves genetic embyro screening for genetic diseases; selected embryos are then implanted into the mother’s womb.

DNA structure was discovered by Watson and Crick, a landmark in medical history. However, long before the discovery, the concept of designer babies, free from hereditary diseases and with superior genes for looks, intelligence and more, was being considered. It looks like we have finally arrived at the crossroads to making a decision on whether to have designer babies or not.

Ethics of Designer Babies

Babies by DesignThe Fertility Institutes based in New York, Los Angeles and Mexico, was the first company to offer so-called designer babies, through embryo screening for genetic disorders. They also offered couples the opportunity to screen for eye color, complexion and hair color. The company has received enormous flak from opponents who consider it a vilification of the ethical and moral boundaries of conception and childbirth. This has not stopped couples from around the world rushing to the institute to have designer babies with increased numbers of prospective parents forecast for 2012.

Designer Babies Pros and Cons

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) technology has been in use for decades to facilitate IVF clinics to screen embryos for over 100 genetic deadly disorders. This science is enabling couples the world over to avoid having babies with deadly and sometimes fatal diseases. Because PGD allows scientists to screen embryos for a lot more than just genetic disorders, the ethical questions and the designer babies cons have come to the fore with opposition gathering to the idea of playing god.

According to Dr. Jeff Steinbury, Director of The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles, who is already rather prominent for his role in producing the world’s first test tube baby, claims that the Fertility Institute can, with the use of PGD, help parents go beyond screening for diseases. Parents can create designer babies with the assistance of a genetic counselor who can perform a dna assessment and screen embyros by choosing the gender, cosmetic appearance of the baby, physical traits like height, beauty, intelligence, freedom from mental disorders and propensity towards obesity among other things. The service is being offered only to couples who choose InVitro Fertilization and the price of a designer baby is approximately 18 thousand dollars including the services of the genetic counselor, the dna assessment and embryo screening.

Christian groups and others are questioning the ethics of designer babies with enhanced appearance and abilities, and freedom from genetic disorders. Another question being raised is the possibility that the world is headed toward an accepted form of eugenics with the increased acceptance of creating genetically screened babies.  The ethics controversy surrounding designer babies pros and cons seems destined to continue far into the future.