Designer Babies - an ethical horror or progress in science?

Designer Babies – When Did We Begin To Play God?

“He has your husbands eyes”. “I wish my baby girl had my hair”. It is only natural to expect your baby to be a combination of the best qualities, traits and aesthetics of your husband and you combined. While we love our babies nonetheless, many parents play the “design our baby” game while expecting their little ones. With advances in technology, this “designing” has become a reality, but when did we obtain the right to play God?

While it is a great feeling to customise your clothes, your sandwiches and your education degree to suit your liking, this priveledge of personalization when transfered to creating your own child seems bizarre.

Well, designer babies are a real thing! They are babies with a genetic makeup that has been artificially picked up by genetic engineers. Thanks to the success of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), it is easy to see which genes and characteristics are present in the baby’s DNA. In other words, you can choose how you want your baby to turn out.

According to studies these are the traits that a parent can control:

  • Gender
  • Preferred appearance
  • Intelligence level
  • Removal of genetic disease
  • Personality

How Far Is Too Far – An ethical view on Designer Babies

While it is already a emotional and ethical outrage when it comes to deciding your baby’s gender, this genetic desigining may have taken it a step too far amongst a large group of people. Why should we be playing God? And does anything good come out of this?

Before we get to the good, let’s look at what could go wrong

  1. This “advancement” could lead to the slow end of sex for procreation, perhaps reducing intimacy and the natural occurence of life on Earth.
  2. It could damage the way genetics works forever.
  3. It could create a futher gap between the rich who could afford it and the poor. Creating a “perfect” class of rich folk and a then percieved “flawed” set of lower classes.
  4. Failure of the process would lead to termination of fertilization.
  5. The baby will have no choice in the matter.
  6. Other children could develop a complex.

Here is what could go right

  1. This process could lead to an end to genetic diseases being transfered to future generations.
  2. People might begin to understand more about genetics.
  3. Defective genes could potentially be eliminated.
  4. Parent’s could aquire desired genes from a donor.

In a country like ours, sex selection is still illegal because of the strong preference of male children, let alone genetic designing. Whether or not this process will be welcome with open arms in India, is a debate that is tilting more towards “nay” than “yay”. Ethical views apart, other critics are questioning the practicality of this technique for conception.

The program of designing babies, started by Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg has been terminated already, however, the study that has gone into it can never be erased. Neither can the assurance that there are doctors out there who can take on the procedure for parents who are willing.

While this technique has been banned in many countries, there is nothing stopping parents to travel to countries where it remains legal. Only the future will decide whether this technique is here to stay.

Are designer babies a genetic horror that will unfold, or will it remain just a successful study that was experimented on?

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