Is It Ethical To Choose Your Child’s Traits?

The term ‘designer baby’ was coined a few years back, when a couple of scientists suggested the growing possibility of parents being able to choose the traits they would prefer their children to have.

This was made possible with the progress of the science of in vitro fertilization. This is where the doctor manually creates the embryo in a petri dish by combining the sperm and the egg. He/she then repeats the process until a couple of embryos have formed. The doctor then selects a sample to be tested and screened, and gives the results to the parents. If one of the embryos possesses the traits that are more preferred by the parents, then they can select that embryo to be implanted in the woman’s uterus.

The initial intention of doing this type of genetic screening was to identify and weed out genetic abnormalities that are known to cause genetic diseases like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. Recently, it was discovered that the defects in the mother’s egg could be extracted and replaced with healthy components from a donor’s egg. Proponents of the ban of this science argue that there could be some unforeseen genetic problems in future generations. If so, are the ‘backfired’ genetically advanced babies going to be disposed of, just like the failed projects of genetically modified crops?

In 2009, it became possible for parents to choose their child’s gender. Since this only requires the identification of the X and Y chromosome during the screening and selection process, it’s not seen to be as dangerous or as complicated as selecting what height your child will be or the color of their eyes, which scientists state is going to be possible in the future. This advancement in technology has sparked a lot of controversy, where some people are advocating for its ban altogether. This is because it’s a little too similar to the science of eugenics.

Eugenics is a science that advocates for the improvement of a population by controlling breeding in order to retain some favorable traits. This science is what caused the infamous holocaust, and critics fear for a similar future. The argument is that selection of traits such as athletic ability and intelligence could lead to a future with a ‘superior’ human race looking down on everyone else. Considering that most people will not be able to afford the privilege of selecting their children’s traits, major societal rifts may ensue as only the ‘elite’ in society will have these genetic advancements. This possible dystopian future has sparked fear and a lot of outrage among some people.

Despite scientists arguing that the selection of non-medical traits is far more complicated and that ‘it may never go that far anyway’, what can’t be ignored is that genetic manipulation of any kind could definitely cause a lot of problems, and mistakes are going to be made along the way. The experiments that may need to be done in order to determine the safety of this science could be unethical, thus making the necessity of this technology questionable.

  • Updated September 9, 2017
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