Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brave new world

From the New York Daily News, "Custom-made babies delivered: Fertility clinic doctor's design-a-kid offer creates uproar":
.... Dr. Jeff Steinberg has already let thousands decide their kids' gender. Now he says that within the next six months, the Manhattan and L.A. offices of his Fertility Institutes will let would-be moms and dads pick whether junior has blue or brown eyes or black or blond hair.

"In the process of doing gender selection ... we've also uncovered the technology [to] characterize things like eye and hair color," said Steinberg, 54. ....

Custom-made kids will be achieved through preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, the procedure used to weed out problem embryos and to allow parents to choose a gender.

In letting parents decide what traits their kids have, doctors will examine the genetic makeup of embryos created in the lab and implant the ones that have the best chance of giving mom and dad what they want. ....

"Say you made seven embryos, and one of them has got the highest chance of green eyes, and that chance is 80%. It's not perfect science because eye and hair color are not perfect genetics," said Steinberg, who opened an office on E. 40th St. two months ago. ....

Prof. Alexander Capron, bioethicist and professor of law and medicine at the University of Southern California, called Steinberg's procedure problematic. "The notion of unconditional love and support — which is assumed to be what parents owe their children — is totally undermined here," he said.

"You're saying I want to order up just what I want and that's what I'll love."

One New York doctor even likened it to the pursuit of a master race.

"We're crossing the line into eugenics, the theory of trying to give people enhanced characteristics — genetic engineering to make sort of the superman or superwoman," said Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, director of ethics at New York Medical College and St. Vincent's Hospital. (more)
The method is to "weed out problem embryos," i.e. those without the right characteristics. First the mother of octuplets, and now this. Perhaps the real problem is fertility clinics.

Update 3/6: Ryan Sayre Patrico at First Things:
What do you know. Dr. Steinberg has changed his mind:
“Though well intended, we remain sensitive to public perception and feel that any benefit the diagnostic studies may offer are far outweighed by the apparent negative societal impacts involved.”
In other words, he’s nixing the project, not because designing babies is objectively wrong, but because public opinion hasn’t caught up with the latest technological advances. If opinion were to swing in his favor, I’m afraid he’d be all to willing to set up shop.
Custom-made babies delivered: Fertility clinic doctor's design-a-kid offer creates uproar, First Things » Blog Archive » Designer Baby Doctor Decides to Wait

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