I know, I know…it's been quiet around here lately…Sorry about my extended absences. I posted a random tidbit on Valentine's day, but that's about it for this month. Something's caught my attention lately, though, and I'd like to share it with you.
Not that this is new news or anything. It was first publicized in 1999, when TIME magazine released an article about it. I heard a peer bring it up after class one day and I couldn't help but ask what she was talking about. "Designer babies." What are those?
The more naive part of my brain thought designer as in clothing. Come on, who doesn't love a great pair of True Religion jeans or a Louis Vuitton bag? Designer babies, in my opinion, would be kiddos dressed to a 't.' Like they're mom's Barbie dolls.
She said designer babies are, in fact, fetuses designed by their parents. As in, parents can now choose the gender and even the genetic make of their unborn children…for several grand. Actually, anywhere from $3,00-19,000 in the United States. This medical advancement, formally called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, was originally intended to help parents avoid miscarriages or infant deaths from diseases like cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy. Embryos (yes, embryos with an 's') are "formed" in a lab setting, where they are then tested for genetic mutations or signs of these debilitating diseases. The "defect-free" embryo is then planted into the mother's uterus. It's hard to find an exact number of "possible embryos" created for each couple, but there are "defected" embryos who do not pass the biopsy (or do not survive the biopsy) and are disposed of about five days after fertilization.
Just because it's a five day old ball of cells…it's not human? What are we doing?
The Fertility Institutes, the leading fertility institution in the PGD race, suggests couples seeking designer babies should suffer one of the following complications:
"Prior unexplained IVF failure
Maternal age over 38
Conception of a chromosomally abnormal child or fetus
Polycystic ovary syndrome
History of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
Heritable medical condition in either the patient or in a prior child (such as hemophilia)
Two or more children of the same gender (sex selection for family balancing)
Multiple birth with desire to transfer just one embryo or a need for donor oocytes due to Turner's syndrome
Premature ovarian failure or premature menopause"
(The whole spiel is available to read at http://www.fertility-docs.com/PGD.phtml.)
But…it's been taken even farther now. And the process of designing a baby is apparently traumatizing for the fetus. According to an article found on the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago's website (www.advancedfertility.com/preimplantation_genetic_diagnosis.htm), many embryos never fully recover from the genetic alterations performed during the earliest stages of development. The biopsy can actually kill the fetus. Red flag, anyone?
I wonder why adoption is not a more sought-after answer to infertility issues. But, the increasing cost of the process and the limiting regulations have caused private adoptions to be more and more time consuming. It may actually be cheaper to have a PGD…and faster, too. Nine months isn't much time to wait when compared to the tedious adoption process. Maybe this is what has discouraged so many families from adopting children in need. That's a whole other nightmare.
Back to the PGD.
Are we trying too hard to play God? It used to be that family was really the only thing in your life you couldn't choose…but now there are rumors of couples being able to change all kinds of features and details of their unborn children. We may be raising a generation of genetically-advanced humans soon, folks.
This is too much like iRobot for my taste.
Just some food for thought…what do you think about PGD?