DNA

Australia’s Daily Telegraph recently published this story about a lawsuit brought against an IVF clinic by Aussie parents because doctors failed to identify a “cancer gene” in a procedure known as “preimplantation genetic diagnosis”.

According to the Telegraph:

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, was pioneered by Victorian scientists, and the controversial gene screening has been embraced by fertility clinics around Australia and the world.  It is billed as a way of reducing the incidence of deadly genetic diseases, including more than 30 inherited cancers, cystic fibrosis, deafness and blindness.  Dozens of Australian children have been born using the controversial technique, which has triggered ethical and legal debate over whether scientists should be allowed to “play God'”.  The tests are carried out on an IVF embryo when it has eight cells. A single cell is removed and DNA tested for gene mutations.  The mother who is suing produced eight IVF embryos for genetic testing. Of the embryos tested, only two were given the all-clear for implantation. The others were discarded.

Doctors reportedly assured the parents that their child would not have a hereditary, cancer-causing genetic mutation.  The doctors were wrong, and now the child has a high probability of developing cancer at some point in his life.

Stories like this shine a clear spotlight upon the ethical minefield of modern genetics.  Since the successful mapping of the human genome in 2003, scientists have been working feverishly to identify genetic predispositions to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  As further discoveries are made and technology continues to develop, a host of ethical problems will arise.  It’s hard to imagine, that in the not-too-distant future, human beings will be “genetically designed” not to develop cancer.  Perhaps we will never discover a cure for cancer because there will be no need: people will simply be immune to it.

But why stop at cancer?  Why not “turn off” the gene that gives rise to obesity as well?  And while we’re at it, let’s make sure that the genes are arranged to produce intelligence and a balanced personality.  Then maybe we can tweak the genes that will determine personal appearance – because after all – who wants to have an unattractive child when they could have otherwise?

  1. So how about it?  Would you allow your child to be “genetically vaccinated” against cancer or other diseases? 
  2. What about obesity? 
  3. Below (or even average) intelligence? 
  4. An introverted personality? 
  5. Unattractiveness?

I’m quite sure that I could go along with number one.  I’m not so sure about two.  The rest of this list gets progressively more scary.  What do you guys thing about it?

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