Is it ethical to create a child with specific genetic factors?Is it ethical to create a child with specific genetic factors?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My high school students are debating this very issue this week! My personal opinion is that it is unethical for several reasons. First, while My Sister's Keeper is a fictional work, the struggle that Abigail faces when she realizes that the sole reason for her existence (at least originally) is to provide "parts" for her ill sister is a realistic struggle. Imagine how a child would feel if he knew that his parents had "designed" him to possess certain physical features either for aesthetic purposes or for another person's use.

In an article entitled "Victims from Birth," essayist Wendy McElroy discusses another controversy associated with the ethics of genetic engineering. She cites the case of a couple who genetically designed their baby to be born deaf because they view deafness as a culture (both parents are deaf). Is it fair for parents to choose for their child to have a diability? While the parents in the article argue that deafness is a culture, they still take advantage of all the benefits connect to the Americans with Disabilities Act; so they obviously do see deafness as a disability and purposed to have a deaf child through genetic engineering.

The primary argument against genetically designing babies is that it could result in a master race which smacks of Nazi Germany. While this might sound extreme, all it would take is for a small group of people to begin choosing specific hair, eye, and skin color for their offspring, and that group could grow as more and more children--all looking the same--reproduced. It would be quite easy for a tyrannical government to control its population in this manner until everyone in the country looked virtually the same.

While scientists have been able to isolate genes which cause specific diseases, we have not yet had much success with actually preventing those genetic diseases from reoccurring. Perhaps as science advances, we will, and humans will have to decide how far is too far with genetic design.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess it depends if you do so naturally or scientifically.  If the only reason you are having a child is for the genetic factors or material they can provide, as in this particular story, then I would say yes, it is unethical to conceive a child in those circumstances, whether it is done naturally or in a lab.  I don't know that it is purely unethical for a family to have children because they are athletes and they want to have their own basketball team someday.  Strange perhaps, but not necessarily unethical.

A similar ethical issue involves people who "order" sperm from a donor clinic and are able to browse through a catalog that details the donors IQ, physical appearance, etc.  They are essentially making the same decision as if someone engineered a child in a laboratory for genetic reasons.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, it is not ethical to do this.  The reason is that we will soon have a race to create super children.  Everyone who can afford it will have children who are genetically "better" than the poorer kids.

Imagine if you could pay to have certain genetic factors in your kids.  You would surely want them to be relatively tall and good looking.  You would want them to be athletic and smart (at least I would want all of these things if I could have them).  So pretty soon, all the people with enough money will have kids that are better looking, more athletic and smarter than the kids of people who have no money.  This seems unfair and unethical.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say that genetically engineered babies is unethical. We currently are able to tell quite a bit about a fetus and it's health while developing and even predict certain diseases or syndromes. I don't think anything that alters the fetus after conception is right. I also am uncomfortable with anything that might be done to alter the genetics at the time of conception.

krishna-agrawala | Student

In general we do many things to improve the mental and physical characteristics of our children after they are born by means such as diet, exercise, educational and environment. I do not know about other countries, but in India expectant mothers also follow many do's and dont's to promote development of desirable characteristic in the unborn baby. Then we also take medical treatment to correct some genetic defects. Finally we also see no ethical issues in practices like kidney and eye transplant. Under these situation, I see nothing ethically wrong in the desire to have children with desirable genetic characteristics.

More than ethical issues the dangers of this kind of genetic manipulation lies in errors of the process resulting in unknown serious problems. We also cannot rule out the possibility of misuse of of such technology by people with power to create a large population that possesses conforms to their evil designs.

Even in absence of such deliberate misuse of this technology, sociological problems may be created by things like too many children having same kind of traits that are currently in fashion, or parents opting for children with some fanciful combination of traits. Another issue that need consideration is the psychological impact of genes of children not belonging to their parents.

Till we are sure that we will be able to handle such problems, it is best to go slow on developing technology for genetically engineered babies.