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Designer Babies Debate Forum
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Last Message  4 years ago

The colloquial term "designer baby" refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilisation to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. The term is derived by comparison with "designer clothing". It implies the ultimate commodification of children and is therefore usually used pejoratively to signal opposition to such use of reprogenetics.


A minority of bioethicists consider the process of designing a baby, once the reprogenetic technology is shown to be safe, to be a responsible and justifiable application of parental procreative liberty. Some believe such selection should be legally mandatory.

The usage of reprogenetics on one's offspring is said to be defensible as procreative beneficence, the moral obligation of parents to try to give their children the healthiest, happiest lives possible. Some futurists claim that it would put the human species on a path to participant evolution.

A common objection to the notion of using reprogenetic technologies to create a "designer baby" is based on the ethics of human experimentation. Modern bioethical codes such as the Declaration of Helsinki condemn experiments on genitals that are unnecessary, dangerous, or without the subject's consent. A report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) voices these concerns in the context of inheritable genetic modification, concluding that this biotechnology "cannot presently be carried out safely and responsibly on human beings" and that "pressing moral concerns" have not yet been addressed.

Other objections to the idea of designer babies include the termination of embryos and how many disapprove of methods such as these under moral and religious grounds. For example, a group who believes in pro-life would not approve of the termination of preborn embryos. Also, the social standards go much further. It can be projected that we will breed a race of super humans who look down on those humans without genetic enhancements. Assuming genetic enhancement becomes readily available will it be incredibly expensive? In this instance only the wealthy would be protected from inherited diseases and disabilities, and the discrimination against those with disabilities would greatly rise. Lastly, humans have never experienced the effects of genetic structure alteration. The results could have dire consequences and possibly damage the gene pool.

Genetic modification can be used to alter anything from gender to disease, and eventually appearance, personality, and even IQ. Another controversy facing the advancement of genetic modification technology is the price of such procedures and its ability to create a gap in society. Altering embryos is fairly recent technology and as it develops is a very costly procedure. With only the wealthy being able to pay for the modification that will eliminate disease for their children and eventually choose traits such as personality and appearance will lead to an elite race, far more advanced than the poor who cannot afford such technologies.

Most opponents of this use of reprogenetic technology refer to its possible social implications, distinguishing between genetic modifications used to treat people with disabilities or diseases and those used to enhance healthy people. They are particularly wary of this technology’s ability to lead to a new eugenics where individuals are "bred" or designed to suit social preferences such as above average height, certain hair color, increased intelligence, or greater memory. Not only is the prospect of future generations of "better people" a metaphysical concern, but apprehension also arises from the possibility that such groups of people might become prejudiced against one another due to a feeling of lost common humanity with non-enhanced or differently-enhanced groups. Within journalistic coverage of the issue, as well as within the analysis of bioconservative critics, the issue of safety takes a secondary role to that of humanity, because it is thought that the ethical issue of safety can eventually be resolved by innovation and so should not be focused on due to its fallibility. The so-called Frankenstein argument asserts that genetically engineering designer babies would compel us to think of each other as products or devices rather than people, and the spectre has often been raised (for instance by the Center for Genetics and Society) of young parents-to-be who might one day send away for a catalogue, compose a list of desirable features and order a custom infant produced to specification.

Genetic engineering of human beings is a controversial topic because many of the aspects associated with human genetic engineering are controversial. One controversial aspect is that the current test subjects for genetic engineering are animals like mice and primates. Scientists first perform their tests on mice and rats and if they are successful scientists move on to primates because their DNA is the most similar to humans. Some tests have been proven to be successful but many have also failed. When the test fails the subject is discarded. Genetic engineering is not tested on humans because that is against the law, animals receiving the same rights is a much debated topic. If one is pro animal testing then this aspect of genetic engineering is not an issue for them but if one is against animal testing then they will probably have a different view on genetic engineering.

The genetic modification of humans can pose an ethical debate about the rights of the baby. One side of this issue is that the fetus should be free to not be genetically modified. Once the genetic modification of the fetus takes place then the baby is changed forever, there is no chance that the genetic modification completed prior to birth could ever be reversed. The opposing view to this is that the parents are the ones with the rights to their unborn child, so they should be able to have the option to alter their baby if they choose to. This ethical debate about genetic modification and the rights of a fetus is similar to the debate about abortion and if the parents or the unborn child has the rights to decide the future of the fetus.

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