First let me define “designer babies”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines this as “a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics” (Soanes, C., and A. Stevenson). The research has been going on for a long time. It started back in 1976 when the first successful genetic manipulation took place on mice, in efforts to produce more accurate disease models and test subjects (web.mit.edu). At the present time it is illegal to create “designer babies” so it’s not something we will be dealing with tomorrow. Let me get back to what a “designer baby” means but in layman’s terms. It means you can choose what kind of features your child has before they are born. This is because of genetic screening. A good thing about genetic screening is that it has made it possible to eliminate genes associated with several genetic defects and terminal illnesses, but it has also made it possible (in the future, not now) for parents and doctors to genetically screen embryos to be able to give that child characteristics of their choosing. How would “designer babies” be made? This question is answered in the beginning of this paragraph, but to put it in simpler terms, an embryo is created by in vitro fertilization, a single cell is removed from that embryo, the cell is genetically tested, and then the parents decide whether to implant the embryo in the mother’s womb or dispose of it (www.bionetonline.org).
What are the pros and cons of “designer babies”? Some of the pros would be of course that the embryo would be free of any genetic diseases before it is implanted into the mother. You could pick the sex of your child. It is also believed that there is the possibility of improving on the human race, making people stronger or more immune to getting sick. Some people wonder if it will hurt babies but the cells that babies need are taken from the umbilical cord and not from a baby itself so babies don’t go through any painful medical procedures. I’m sure there are other pros but let’s move on to some cons. I wonder what would happen to the humans that weren’t genetically designed. Would they be left out in the cold, so to speak, by the more superior genetically enhanced race? What if for a couple of decades most people wanted blonde haired and blue eyed kids, wouldn’t we all get sick of looking at the same type of people? By creating a new race could there be a race war between the old race and the new one? No one knows for sure what the social consequences would be by creating a better human. Another thing I thought of is what a child would think when they started to reach the age of independence. I have a teenager and sometimes when we don’t agree on something he says “well, I didn’t ask to be born”. I tell him he has to take responsibility for his own actions. If he was a “designer baby” he might not think he would ever have to take responsibility for his own actions because I was the one that consciously created how he was going to turn out. There are so many pros and cons when it comes to this subject.
Is it ethical to create “designer babies”? I believe the ethics question can be answered by some of the questions I talked about in the previous paragraph. If we start being able to make people the way we want them to be what happens to the uniqueness of each human being? I wasn’t going to state how I personally feel about this subject but as I researched the subject I just couldn’t see how this could possibly turn out for the good. I believe in genetic scanning to help with diseases and other medical issues but not for “designer baby” reasons. Personally, I don’t think the human genome should be messed with. I just think we are asking for trouble when we do something like that.
Soanes, C., and A. Stevenson (eds). 2005. Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com (accessed Mar. 30, 2006)