Eng100 Ethics Essay
English and Literature
Submitted By didim93
10 April 2013
Baby’s First Word: Designer
There was once a time when the term designer was used only in terms of style and fashion. It was a choice between brands such as Gucci, Prada, or Armani and never a choice between disabilities, skin color, or gender. It is sad to say the word designer no longer applies to just materials anymore, it’s reached a new level; genetics. There is nothing ethical about being able to essentially manipulate the genes of a fetus to reflect characteristics deemed suitable by the parents. The characteristics chosen by the parents, such as a medical miracle match of genes to another sibling, set the child up to become what the parents want and not necessarily what the child wants to be. Genetic alteration of the baby also contributes to the unfairness that is gender preference and gender based discrimination. The possibility of genetic hierarchies, to which those that are not genetically enhanced are considered inferior, will increase tremendously because of the increasing gap between classes. It is understandable that technology is moving humanity towards a better more advanced future, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is that some things created in nature cannot be replaced by technology. Designer babies are just one of the few gray areas in which science infringes upon the way of nature. Scientists claim that not everything about genetically altered test tube babies can be considered bad. Science has been able to manipulate fetuses to be born with distinct genes and traits that are considered “savior” because everything about them can be used to help an ailing sibling. The process of selectively screening certain genetic traits and then re-implanting them back into the mother is called Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis. The term designer is derived from this process because the process enables the parents to screen for possible characteristics of the baby. They can then chose the traits they want the baby to exhibit and then implant the cells back into the womb to be born. Scientist claim that this process allows for many parents to actively chose the genetic makeup of the child which could be highly beneficial in situations that involve a very ill sibling in need of tissue/organ/stem cell matches. That’s a real positive side, right? One sibling saving the life of the other is what real love is exemplified as. While some may deem that to be true, I believe real love isn’t all about the continued sacrifice of one child for another. Where is the consideration and compassion for the “savior” child who is subjected to all the medical procedures? There was a novel written by Jodi Picoult called My Sister’s Keeper and it was based around the story of this family who had decided to conceive a baby that was a perfect match to help save their eldest daughter who was suffering from leukemia. In the novel, the young “savior” child decided to sue her parents for the right to her own body. The focus in the novel was not the court case for medical emancipation, but rather what the author was trying to portray was that in an effort to save one child some parents and people forget that they may be subjecting the other child to extremes. The savior children were never given any freedom to choose what they want for themselves. What often gets overlooked in situations like My Sister’s Keeper is the sacrifice of the designer baby to help the suffering normal child. So no, there is no real positive in having one child suffer in attempt to save another. From the moment of conception the child is already set up to serve a certain purpose, and the basic freedom to choose their future is denied. Hair color, eye color, skin color, gender and genetic faults or pre-depositions are determined by the parents and nothing is left to chance or the will of the child. Do they have the right to say no to being the blood and organ bank for a sibling or will the sibling love be lorded over them in silent expectation of what they were essentially born to do? Let’s say that the possibility of having a boy or a girl was fifty-fifty, and a coin toss could determine the gender of the child. What would you as a parent chose; a boy or a girl? Traditionally speaking, boys are supposed to carry on the family name and take over the family business someday. Girls are thought to be expensive and eventually need to be married off; a burden. To people that live in modern developed countries like the U.S, these outdated and sexist perspectives seem ridiculous. Yet surprisingly, these outdated and sexist perspectives are still considered and upheld in some countries all over the world. A population census done by the United Nations in 2012 showed that a great deal of countries hold an equal ratio of women to men. Yet the census also showed quite a few countries with shockingly low ratios of women to men. In Qatar, there are roughly 32 women per 100 men in a total population of 1,939 people. The perspective held about girls in countries like Qatar lead to the mass killings of hundreds of baby girls because of the sole reason that that are girls. This plays in with the designer babies because parents that chose to have a designer baby can determine the gender of the child as well other qualities. So if parents were given the choice, those that still believe girls to be lesser to boys, will chose to have a boy instead of a girl. It is not the same as murdering a baby girl, but it is essentially creating a greater disadvantage for girls in the world. The fifty-fifty chance has been skewed in the favor of boys. Gender bias still very much exists in our modern world and test tube children do nothing to help that bias because the world and humanity is less than ideal. A perfect utopian world is not something that will ever be possible, but is something to strive for. The rate at which science has advanced the world is mind- boggling and frankly a little scary. If we were to look some 50 years into the future, genetically altered babies would not be considered so revolutionary. It would probably, with time, would have been further advanced and refined to be considered a normal aspect to consider when thinking of having a child. There could even be more characteristics that are up for consideration like athletic ability, artistic ability or intelligence. Parents, who can afford it, can basically build their perfect little baby. Parents that cannot afford a designer baby are stuck with letting nature chose for them. As a rough cost in 2012, Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis is some $3,550 in addition to the cost of regular in-vitro fertilization. So what does that mean for the children that got stuck with the short end of the gene stick? They may very well be considered inferior to the children that were enhanced. The social hierarchy will favor the children with enhanced abilities and essentially shun the children that were born without. With increased ability, every child’s performance will also be greatly improved and the overall competition will get much more challenging. The children that were not genetically improved will not stand much of a chance in the competition, and will unfortunately not get very far in their lives because of the consideration that they are for all purposes inept. What sort of life is that for a child? Looking at our present time, this hypothetical social hierarchy is seemingly parallel to the situation between children born healthy and normal and children born with disabilities like dyslexia or autism. It is a constant struggle for disables children to achieve things that healthy children can do every day. They are considered disadvantaged, inept, and unlikely to succeed in many things; like the normal children in comparison to the genetically altered super children. Scientist will argue that genetic enhancement will help to reduce or eliminate genetically linked disabilities like deafness or Down syndrome. While that may sound promising and wonderful for humanity, it also factors into increasing the gap between the elite, normal and disabled. Those that can’t afford genetic enhancement of their children are not given the choice to screen for any possible disabilities, and if for example a child with a disability is born, then that child and parents must face the social repercussions and disadvantages that come along with being significantly low in the genetic hierarchy. We as people, at some point in our adult lives, all wish to start a family. It is natural to want to have children; it is the way nature intended for the population to survive. But as people turned prospective parents, there are things that need to be considered. It is understandable that the allure of designer babies is that parents can fashion a baby to be as perfect as possible. All parents want the best of their kids. What needs to be considered is what is best for the kids. Designer babies present a whole slew of problems like developing genetic hierarchies, increased gender discrimination and unfair treatment of savior children. So we come back to the question, what is wrong with just leaving certain processes of nature up to nature itself to decide? Why don’t we let Gucci, Prada, and Armani take care of the fabrics, colors, and design; while nature takes care of everything else.
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Picoult, Jodi. My Sister's Keeper: A Novel. New York: Atria, 2004. Print
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