The Telegraph reported this week that Britain will hold a forum on whether or not the DNA of third parties should be allowed to replace genetically undesirable traits in fertilized embryos.
The article points out that over two-thirds of people in Britain are in favor of the procedure, with only a third opposed. It also reiterates the story of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby born in 1978. Apparently, everyone thought she would be born “a monster.” There has been little follow up as to whether or not Louise actually is a monster, but I guess we are supposed to presume she is not.
In related news, apparently this is not Louise Brown.
The moral and legal question regarding third-party baby fertility really depends on how you look at it. To some, it might be considered the equivalent of “Genetic Swinging” (I am coining the term), while to others it is much like getting a skin graph or a prosthetic. In fact, for many of these children, one can argue that we either provide third party genetic material now or provide third party material later – and without the moral holdup. On the other hand, this procedure would likely be quite appealing to…swingers.
Furthermore, there is the notion that the child will have three parents and thus might suffer identity crises due to the mixed parentage. It is hard to weigh this against the notion that a person could live a longer and healthier life unembargoed by hereditary diseases.
Of course, with as little as we know about DNA, we really have no notion of what the side-effects of this treatment will be. Should we really be experimenting with human life without the consent of the subject?? Certainly, this is an old argument, but only in the sense that science fiction writers thought up a hundred years ago much of what we are dealing with today. If I recall, most of those authors thought such experimentation was a bad thing.
Though–Mary Shelley seemed to tell us we should at least have the presence of mind to be more sensitve to the monsters we create, rather than chasing them around with pitch forks.
I find it very hard to be against creating children without the statistically probable defect that their parents are likely to pass on to them. This has always been one of the strongest arguments for designer children. The counter-arguments seem odd in comparison: we will create two classes of people, one who can afford to be beautiful, intelligent, and disease free and the other that is prone to whatever their parents happen to give them; we are interfering with not only the physical but the spiritual makeup of the child; we could be creating some sort of monster. These arguments seem better suited for a campfire than a logical argument.
Yet I think they are all valid.
Just because we do not see the physical ramifications of the monstrosity we have created in a beautiful – too beautiful – baby, does not mean the monster is not there. The monster could be psychological, the monster could be societal. Either the baby is the monster – which I doubt, to be honest – in that she will be born without an identity and a host of side-effects that we cannot even fathom, or we are the monsters, and we are raping children of the ability to live a normal life in our pursuit of immortality.