Picking Perfect Babies

A British family chose IVF and screened embryos that had a breast cancer gene:

By screening out embryos carrying the gene, called BRCA-1, the couple, from London, will eliminate the hereditary disease from their lineage.

About 5% of the 44,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Britain each year are estimated to be caused by the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, both of which can be detected in embryos.

Doctors say thousands of cases of breast cancer could be avoided by screening embryos using the technique called preimplantation diagnosis (PGD).

Eleven embryos were created. Six had the bad gene. Six were destroyed. Two were implanted. One malfunctioned. Two were frozen for “future use”.

As a doctor, I find the notion of avoiding the future pain of such a disastrous disease–55-85% of those with this gene end up with the cancer–exciting and hopeful. But I shudder, too, at the implications and the callous actions taken. Creating eleven lives, destroying six, so that one ostensibly healthy one is created….. It’s the destruction that is so problematic. No one would dream of having eleven children, and then dumping six overboard because they had a 50-85% chance of suffering down the road.

Doctors and parents choosing this procedure view embryos as specimens not life. With time, genetic markers will identify everything from depression to homosexuality to heart disease. Given the rationale used in genetic selection, there will be no ethical reason to prevent its use for nearly any dysfunction.

Destroying embryos is okay in order to have a healthy baby:
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Cross-posted at Dr. Melissa Clouthier where I’m also talking about parenting teenage girls

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