Designer Babies Discussion

I wanted to open up a little bit of a discussion on the topic of choosing your embryo. This is now being done in Britain, and while it is a process that I am not sure I am at all comfortable with, the reasons for doing so are noble. I thought it would be interesting to see what you guys thought of it. I will copy excerpts from the Fox News story on it. But for full length article please see

Britain Clears Way for ‘Designer Baby’ Free of Breast Cancer Gene

And original article from the London post:
First Designer Babies to Beat Breast Cancer

Most of the Fox Article:

Tests will allow the couples to take the unprecedented step of selecting embryos free from a gene that carries a heightened risk, but does not necessarily cause, the cancer. The move will reignite controversy over the ethics of embryo screening.
An application to test for the BRCA1 gene was submitted yesterday by Dr. Paul Serhal of London’s University College Hospital. It is expected to be approved within months as the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already agreed in principle.

Opponents say that the test is unethical because it involves destroying some embryos that would never contract these conditions if allowed to develop into children. Even those that did become ill could expect many years of healthy life first.

Some critics fear that the tests move society farther down a slope that will lead ultimately to the creation of “designer babies” chosen for looks or intelligence.

However, the first patients say that the technology will allow them to spare their children a devastating genetic inheritance. One couple in their 20s, who would only be named as Matthew and Helen, have lost three generations to breast cancer.
Last May, the watchdog ruled it acceptable for doctors to screen embryos for genes such as BRCA1, which raise the risk of cancer in adulthood by between 60 and 80 percent. Embryo screening was previously restricted to genes that carry a 90 to 100 percent chance of causing disease.
The application is the first to be made under the new regime after a year of research to identify the precise mutations that affect Serhal’s patients. Approval is likely in three to four months, once the HFEA has confirmed that the tests are reliable.

Women with a defective BRCA1 gene also have a 40 percent risk of ovarian cancer. It is linked to prostate and breast cancer in men, who can also inherit it benignly and pass it on to their daughters.
Serhal said that objections to screening ignored the harrowing family histories of the patients he is seeking to help, who have a chance to ensure their children avoid similar experiences.
“We are talking about a killer that wipes out generation after generation of women,” Serhal said. “You can have a preventive mastectomy, but this is traumatic and mutilating surgery that does not eliminate the risk.
“What we are trying to do here is to prevent this inherited disease from being a possibility in the first place. At least with these people’s children, we can annihilate the gene from the family tree.”
Supporters of screening point out that patients must use IVF even if fertile and many couples carrying defective genes will not choose this option. The HFEA code of practice also makes it clear that screening is allowed only for serious conditions.
When the license is awarded, the couples will have IVF. This will allow a single cell to be removed from the embryo at the eight-cell stage and be tested for the defective BRCA1 gene. Only unaffected embryos will then be transferred to the womb.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the embryo rights group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: “There has to be a better way of curing disease than this. It is very likely that in the not-too-distant future there will be a way of treating breast cancer that doesn’t rely on eliminating the carrier instead of curing the disease.”
Last year, the Times revealed the conception of Britain’s first “designer baby,” who was screened as an embryo for inherited cancer. The baby has since been born healthy and free from the gene carried by her mother that would have given her a 90 percent chance of developing retinoblastoma, an eye tumor.

Please comment freely and if you disagree with a fellow commenter please use respect while doing so.

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12 Responses to “Designer Babies Discussion”


  1. 1 stevereenie April 26, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    If I could select attributes to have a perfect baby I think I would do it. Some say I did already. Look at you. . . . . Next Stop Lauderdale

  2. 2 tieki rae April 26, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    This is such a challenging issue to me. I mean, how amazing would it be to be able to save people from so much suffering by eliminating these genes? At the same time, I honestly cannot justify creating “designer babies” when other, less perfect unborn children would have to sacrifice their lives for such an experience. I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of weeding out the imperfect in our society, but that gets trickier, I guess. It’s hard to draw the line between obviously knowing how wonderful it would be if no one suffered from any disease or disability and still valuing all life – “healthy” or otherwise.

  3. 3 Kristy C April 26, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    I think one of the biggest questions is where do we draw the line? It started out screening for genes that were incompatible with life, thus reducing the miscarriage rate. After going through 2 miscarriages, I can see at least considering this as an option. Then there are other genes found that are compatible with life but aren’t ideal, such as Down’s syndrome. What if we find a cure for breast cancer by the time that embryo may or may not have developed breast cancer? The BRCA1 is just the beginning, at some point we will identify genes for other diseases. Then what happens when couples have all boys and want a girl for the next child (which by the way some clinics are already doing), or they want their child to have blue eyes? Where does it end? I don’t know the answer, but I also don’t come from a family that has suffered from the BRCA1 gene. Personally, I think a line has to be drawn. There are too many embryos that are literally frozen indefinitely or merely thrown out. In some ways it boils down to the question, when do you think life begins? So I know that there will be a wide range of opinions on this one.

  4. 4 zena April 26, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    i don’t think avoiding suffering is noble.

    ~z

  5. 5 mommyzabs April 26, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Dad, thanks that is really sweet.

    Teike, that is some of my struggle.

    Kristy, imagining what you went through and all the talks we have had on similiar issues is probably one of the soul reasons this issue confuses me. You know so much in this area and your imput is incredibly valuable.

    Zena, To clarify, I don’t think avoiding suffering is noble you are right. Suffering has a way of shaping and molding us like nothing else when we give it to God. But i do think that it is noble that researches to want to rid the world of cancer… but not saying that as a gesture that they are approaching it the right way.

  6. 6 mommyzabs April 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Ikes just re-read my comment above. Hard to read, written poorly.

    Again Clarifing. I meant to say it is noble to want to rid the world of cancer, but that in itself does not neccesarily deem the approach correct. And re-reading my post I can see how it sounds that i was deeming the parents as noble. So I competely understand it being taken that way.

  7. 7 hydro74girl April 27, 2007 at 1:05 am

    i absolutly hate the idea of “designer babies”. yes i would like to see the world rid of diseases and cancer (my mother is a breast cancer survivor). however with removing the BRCA1 gene that is only going to lead other things. it’s crazy that people are already able to choose the sex of their babies. what’s next….are people going to be able to pick the physical characteristics of their own baby? if limits aren’t set, we have to ask the question…how far should we let someone go to obtain the “perfect” baby?

    medical advances are happening everyday so who knows maybe in 20+years they may have found the cure for cancer and other diseases.

  8. 8 mommyzabs April 27, 2007 at 4:04 am

    I totally hope you are right leta. Especially for breast cancer as it is a strain that gets lots of attention and fundraising. Which it should, b/c of how common it is.

    It seems like doing in doing these things that we are opening pandoras box doesn’t it? But I’m thinking it’s already been opened. It makes me wonder what kind of world it will be like when our kids are having babies.

    I’m quite surprised though no one has come out saying “i can’t believe you guys would question any parent wanting a better life for their child”. I was expecting more disagreement on this. BUt most seem to be on the same page. Of course 🙂 A sampling of several comments on my mommyblog that leans conservative morally is hardly a scientific study. But I wonder… what is the “popular” opinion on this in the states?

    I really think that my conclusion is that though I admire the reason for the research and discovery, that it is crossing a line of ethics and playing God. I suppose if I were an aithiest that wouldn’t apply, but I’m not. And I do believe God choses these things. But despite what I believe it does seem this is something that has started. Will culture stand against it?

  9. 9 misi April 27, 2007 at 10:05 am

    E, I totally agree that this whole thing is playing God. Period. There is no way around the fact that before we were born our lives were pre-destined for us by God. So what do we say God pre-destined us to be cancer free????? Things like this really make me angry so I’m stopping there.XOXO

  10. 10 Emily Stuart May 25, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Unhealthy embryos likely would be miscarried anyway. I wouldn’t take my chances with defective embryos.

  11. 11 Emily Stuart May 25, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    And people who do IVF and screen out certain embryos, are not trying to create “perfect” children – they are just trying to ensure they don’t have a miscarriage, or have a child with some horrible disease or disability. No parent wants that for their child, do they?

  12. 12 mommyzabs May 26, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Emily, thank you for visiting and leaving your feedback.
    However, I’m not sure if you read all the post or the articles. This isn’t a matter of not implanting defected embryos that would miscarry anyway… these are embryos that have a gene that CAN be a pre-disposition to PERHAPS one day get breast cancer. Many women have this gene and live very worthy lives. In fact a friend of mine who has a lot of b.cancer in her family is going to be tested for the gene very soon. She won’t be terminated if she has it 🙂 But rather monitored very regularly to make sure if she gets it they catch it early, which is a huge key to living with breast cancer. If we started deciding we didn’t need babies that have potential to eventually have some form of cancer most of us would not be here (when they are at the point that they can determine these things) because 1 in 4 get it, and if you live long enough you are pretty sure to eventually die from it.

    The question is more of a “where are we going with this?” Is this pandora’s box that though now they may be looking for a cancer gene tomorrow they are looking for blonde hair and blue eyes? where do we draw the line? Just food for thought for everyone.

    I really feel you must not have read the whole post or the article to post those comments because this wasn’t at all about having miscarriage. I am sorry that you mis-understood it. Anyone in there right mind wouldn’t want a miscarriage, and if they are paying the $ it takes fro IVF I would imagine they are not do it to simply concieve and lose a baby, that is common sense.

    Thanks again for visiting.
    Mommyzabs


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