Throughout time, man has always questioned science. Man has been curious about life,
space, our bodies, and our existence. Man has gone as far as to the moon, and cloning.
Everyday there are new developments being researched. Along with these developments
come the people’s opinion. Many people question the positive outcomes and negative
outcomes of procedures such as gene manipulation, cloning, in vitro fertilization and
fetal tissue implants. To this day, scientists are researching and developing ways to
“design” their children by selecting their sex, height, intelligence, and color of eyes.
People question the morality of gene manipulation. Is it right to “design” our children?
What are the consequences? The practice of gene manipulation is seen as
Frankenstein-ish, but it is solely to benefit all humans with longer and healthier lives.
Gene manipulation is able to screen disorders of the fetus, prevent diseases from
occurring to the following generations and allows parents to design their children.
Prenatal testing is a very common procedure that is done . Nine out of ten pregnant
women submit to some type of prenatal screening. (Golden) Dominant disorders such as
Down Syndrome, which is a form of retardation, can be detected from a fetus. Since
1996, gene therapy has been the cure for patients suffering from a genetic disease. This is
done by slipping a healthy gene in the cells of one organ of the patient. (Begley) Parents
of this fetus can then decide on the procedures that will be done on their baby to cure
him/her. Not only will the parents of the baby prepare for the surgeries but they can
prepare themselves emotionally. This is helpful because during labor the parents will not
be in shock when told that their child has complications. Older pregnant women who
usually have more complications during pregnancy benefit from genetic screening.
Doctors usually recommend “more invasive procedures” in which actual fetal cells are
collected from the womb’s amniotic fluid or placenta . (Golden) Receiving the results
from the tests, she can determine whether it is safe for her to continue with the
pregnancy, especially since some tests provide accuracy as high as ninety-nine percent.
(Golden) Unfortunately, not all test results come out positive. Approximately ninety-five
percent of couples who receive “bad” news from genetic screening, decide to have an
abortion. (Toriello) Abortion is legal but still many view it as a sin. But why should a
woman continue to carry a child knowing that it will not live after it is born? Why should
she suffer an extra nine months? But with further developments of gene manipulation,
when couples receive “bad” news, they can cure the disorder by gene therapy, thus,
abortion will no longer be the answer to the negative results of genetic screenings.
Genetic screening allows parents to contribute more to the health of their child by
knowing the complications beforehand.
Not only can the fetus be cured of disorders, but it also decrease the probabilities
of the offspring obtaining such diseases. For instance, if a woman is bearing a boy of a
father with the history of prostate cancer, then the baby will probably develop that
cancer. But with the cell-suicide gene inserted to the fetus, it will make his prostate cells
self-destruct. He will not die of the cancer and neither will his sons since the gene that
the doctors gave him copied itself into every cell in his body, including the sperm cells.
(Begley) If this happens, the genetic change would affect that child’s offspring and the
following generations. ” Life would enter a new phase”, says biophysicist Gregory Stock
of UCLA, ” one in which we seize control of our own evolution”. (Begley) Another case
would be where the mother can carry hemophilia, a disease in a person’s blood, and not
suffer from it. She could now have the choice to screen her child’s blood to see if he or
she has healthy blood. She could also choose a procedure in where she could destroy the
bad genes from her fetus. This can again destroy the chances of the following generations
to obtain the disorder. (Grunewald ) Because gene manipulation allows to eliminate
diseases, we will grow to become a healthier society. No longer will people have to
worry about the major diseases, such as cancer or diabetes, in which millions of people
struggle with today. People will live longer and more prosperous lives without worrying
about diseases or about getting sick. In addition, people will not have to stress over the
health of the babies, since most diseases will not be obtained by the child.
With gene manipulation, parents will be able to design the “perfect” image of
their children. The first steps to design children has already been taken since parents can
choose the sex of their children . (Frantz) In Fairfax, Virginia, Monique and Scott Collins
have experienced delight with their two year old daughter, Jessica, who was long-wished
for. She was born after genetic prescreening at a fertility clinic.(Lemonick) But gender
selection does raise knotty issues as well. Many may believe that society values boys
more highly than girls, thus, creating boys to often end up being assertive and more
dominant than girls.(Lemonick) They also believe that gender selection will make it even
harder to rid society of gender role stereotypes. However, recent studies prove otherwise.
William and Catherine Reed, another couple from Virginia, who tried the same treatment
to select the gender of their child, said “We believe family balancing is something that
can bring great joy”. William has six sons and will now have a daughter due to the
fertility procedure. He wants to balance his family and believes that it will create a
happier family. In the five years of this procedure, the lab finds the demand for boys and
girls is about equal. In fact, there re more chances to get a girl than a boy. Of the parents
wanting a girl, ninety-two percent got one and of those wanting boys, sixty-nine got one.
(Joyce) Many say this is just the beginning. Within a decade or two, parents will be able
to determine the height, eye color, body type, hair color, possibly their IQ and personality
type before they are born. The Bishop of Edinburgh wants to stop parents from being able
to do this because he believes that genetic engineering should only be done for “medical
reasons “.To him, the idea of designer babies with good looks and a high IQ is
Frankenstein-ish. (Wright) But what is the difference? Doctors and therapists consider
learning disabilities to be medical problems, and if there is a way to diagnose and cure
them before birth, then we will be able to raise IQ scores. Parents will also be more
pleased with having healthy children, but good looking as well. In doing this children
will have less chances in being discriminated against by not looking a certain way.
Children, thus, will have a higher self-esteem.
The cost of procedures are a major concern to insurance companies as well as
economically challenged families. Since most parents want the best for their children,
there will be a popular demand for gene manipulation. This will create problems for
insurance companies because many people would want them to cover the procedures.
There will also be problems for those who do not have insurance but need the procedures
to be done. Suzi Billings, a thirty-seven year old pregnant woman, not only opted for
amniocentesis, which would check for Down syndrome, an increased risk for children of
mother’s her age– but also for a neuromuscular disease. The procedure was straight
forward and valid by their doctor. ” But the Blue Cross adamantly refused to pay the bill,
even though it was only three hundred dollars”, says Billings. (Golden) Many insurance
companies will not pay since it is not a necessary procedure. But many people will now
ask for the tests and will pay for them on their own since they will be the ones
“designing” their child. Regardless of price, “there will always be people with enough
money or a high enough limit on their credit card, to pay for what they want”.
(Lemonick) Gene manipulation such as destroying down syndrome should be covered by
insurance because it is relating to the health of the patient. Genetic screening is just
another precaution taken during prenatal care. For example, in the fifth month of
pregnancy, a woman can have the alpha-feto protein (AFP) test, which is a screening
device used to check for the possibility of Down Syndrome or spinal bifida in the unborn
child. It is a simple blood test given to the mother which checks the levels of three
hormones in the blood. This test is over ninety-five percent accurate. Presently the State
of California requires all doctors to offer this test to pregnant women, however the
women may refuse to take it. The State of California, in addition, pays for the test which
is approximately one hundred dollars. Insurance companies will not have to worry about
those one hundred dollars per pregnant woman. On the other hand, gene selection such as
selecting the baby’s color of eyes and hair should be paid by the parents. Although the
cost may be an obstacle, gene manipulation will benefit many people with genetic
Like any medical procedure, the cost is not attainable by everyone, but with time
it will lower. Economically, gene manipulation can be a disadvantage to many. The
concern people have is that they may not afford to test their children for diseases. “If you
are going to disadvantage even further those who are already disadvantaged,” says
bioethicist Ruth Maiklin of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “then that does raise
serious raise serious concern.” (Begley) With the good, must come the bad. For example,
when plastic surgery came out, only the economically privileged could afford the
surgeries. However, with time, more and more people get plastic surgery done to
themselves regardless if they are rich or poor. The price of plastic surgery was also
extremely high but with the years it has lowered to where people are not being
disadvantaged. Holly Lagalante, a patient who has undergone many plastic surgeries,
states “It’s been tough on me financially, but it’s worth every penny. It’s life-changing”.
(Kalb) Unlike plastic surgery, gene manipulation is really life changing. Gene
manipulation will really change the life for a child for the better. ” The one realistic way
to avoid this nightmare,” says Robert Wright, a reporter of Time Magazine, “is to ensure
that poor people will be able to afford the same technologies that the rich are using.”
(Wright) What people have to realize is that something as beneficial as gene
manipulation, needs time to become available to everyone. We can not expect for any
new type of procedure to be inexpensive. Neither is gene manipulation occurring
overnight. Little by little, with further genetic screenings, other procedures will be
developed. But with time, gene manipulation will be a common procedure done to
Being able to design our children will occur in a few years and people support the
research. Aside from gender, the only traits that can now be identified at the earliest
stages of development are about a dozen of the most serious genetic diseases. Gene
therapy in embryos is at least a few years away. The gene or combination of genes
responsible for most of our physical and mental attributes has not even been identified
yet, making controversial the idea of engineering genes in or out of a fetus. Besides, most
clinicians say that even if techniques for making designer babies are perfected within the
next decade, they should be applied in the service of disease prevention. (Lemonick) Just
last year, the first artificial chromosome was created. By 2003, the Human Genome
Project will have decoded all three billion chemical letters that spell out our seventy
thousand or so genes. (Begley) Animal experiments designed to show that the process
will not create horrible mutants are underway. No law prohibits germline engineering. As
long as there are no laws forbidding it, scientists will still continue to further researches.
People view gene manipulation as a new method to improve the health of our
following generations. In a recent poll done in Time Magazine, sixty-two percent of the
people say they want to know through genetic profiling, what harmful diseases they may
suffer from later in life. Again, sixty-four percent said they would like to know what their
children might suffer from. (Golden) People were also asked what traits they would
choose: sixty percent said they would rule out a fatal disease, thirty-three percent said to
ensure greater intelligence, twelve percent said they would influence height overweight,
and eleven percent said to determine the sex. People believe that genetic screening
prepares them emotionally for the disorders that their children will be born with.
Forty-eight percent of the people said that they would not consider ending the pregnancy
through abortion even if the test results would show that the baby has a disease.
(Lemonick) The importance of gene manipulations that people do support it and are
willing to go through the procedures.
Gene manipulation will create an “ideal” society in which there will be no more
people suffering from diseases such as cancer or disorders such as Down Syndrome.
People will live longer lives and eventually die naturally from old age. But until then, we
must prepare people and educate them about the possible procedures and consequences,
especially because of genetic screening. Many people may not be prepared to know nor
prepared to want to know about the negative results of the tests. Should we then be
ignorant about the situation and pretend not to know? Ignorance is not bliss. The more
we know about curing people, the closer we get to improving our society. It may not
happen now, but it will real soon.
Begley, Sharon. “Designer Babies.” Time Magazine 9 Nov 1998
Frantz, Elizabeth. “The Hunt for the Ultimate Cure.” Time Magazine 11 Jan 1999
Golden, Frederic. “Good Eggs, Bad Eggs.” Time Magazine 11 Jan 1999
Grunewald, Peter. “Genetic Engineering and Medicine.” Liebenzell: Arbeitskreis
Furernahrungs forschung 1994.
Joyce, Christopher. “Special Delivery”. USA Weekend 14-16 May 1999
Kalb, Claudia. “Our Quest to Be Perfect”. Newsweek 9 Aug 1999
Lemonick, Michael. “Designer Babies” Time Magazine 1999
“Prenatal Care” http:w-cpc.org./pregnancy/testing.html.
Toriello, Helga, Ph.D. “It Happened Once-Will It Happen Again?” A Heartbreaking
Choice Fall 1994
Wright, Robert. “Who Gets The Good Genes?” Time Magazine 11 Jan 1999