Should genetic screening be used to produce genetically healthy or even "designer" babies?
I am not going to lie, when I saw this topic I was very excited to get started on it. There are so many sides to this topic, and it is also a topic that I have constantly debated in science classes over the years. It is a topic that is new, and just the mere fact that there is even a debate surrounding this topic just proves how far we have come as a society scientifically. Many people say that it would be foolish not to take advantage of this technology, and we should do anything we can to “improve humanity.” However, genetically screening babies under any circumstance would be foolish and would cheapen the value of humanity more than it already is.
Before I get started I want to clear something up to possibly make my debate a little easier to read. I am going to refer to genetically screened babies “EB” (enhanced babies). I will also refer to non genetically screened babies as “NB” (normal babies).
Class System when making designer babies
To start off, having EB would create a class system that humanity would never be able to fix. Dr. Nicholas Agar of Victoria University in New Zealand views it this way,
“Some of the most challenging moral and ethical questions about a license to design babies concern the societies it might lead to. The movie Gattaca depicts a future in which genetically enhanced people take the lead, viewing unenhanced people as fit only to clean up after them. Liberal democracy is a cooperative venture in which all are seen as having something to offer.17 Will genetic enhancement bring this social arrangement to an end, creating societies in which unenhanced people are viewed by their genetic superiors in much the same way that we currently view chimpanzees, suitable for drug testing and zoo exhibits but little else?”
When you have EB who cannot get sick, are super athletic, or look devilishly handsome, they will have more opportunities than the NB. NB will not be able to get the same jobs, they will not be able to get the same insurance. Some parents will just not be able to afford this genetic screening. What will this do you ask? It will set up a very defined class system based on income. So what you ask? First of all, a class system is what we are against in this country. Another blowback will be that there will no longer be any “rags-to-riches” stories. The promise of America is that anyone has an opportunity to “make it.” Without this promise, you don’t have an Oprah Winfrey, an Andrew Carnegie, or even a Barack Obama. These individuals would have never been given the time of day if they were just NB.
Humanity lost in designer babies
Also, if we genetically enhance babies, we could lose our humanity. Let’s say that you have a EB who has super intelligence. When this baby is already intelligence, they no longer has to work to learn. They will loose that human development and experience of learning. If they are super sporty, they don’t have to work to become athletic. They would lose the joy of overcoming obstacles. Let’s dig even deeper. What if they could remove the gene that triggers sadness? No parent would want there child to ever be sad. So then, that EB would never be sad. If they are never sad however, they would never know extreme happiness. It is like the saying goes “you have to experience the storm to appreciate the sunlight.” How would you feel if society became emotionless drones? You would have to be whatever your parents would want you to be. How would THAT make you feel?
What about genetic diseases?
Finally, there is the issue of screening babies for disease. I believe that this could a worthwhile cause. However, like stated before, there would be some parents who simply would not be able to provide this for their children. The class system would come back into a factor. It would be much harder for NB to get health insurance or even a job because the risk of them getting a disease or cancer would be a risk that would not be there with EB. Also, not all embryos wouldn’t be screened, so it is quite possible that kids with autism, or any other genetic defect, no matter what the severity, would become second class citizens, and possibly be able to only get jobs in test labs or cleaning up after EB. I know I don’t want this, and I can’t imagine anyone else wanting it either. If the government could provide every family with this type of screening, it would be acceptable to screen for those diseases. However, until then, it creates an uneven playing field, that should not be created.
Imagine that you have a child. Now imagine, for some reason or another, you were not able to provide genetic screening to that child. That child would be made fun of all during school. Your child would not be able to receive insurance, or even get a job. Maybe you are saying, “oh striker, I would make sure to provide that for my child.” There is always the risk of something happening to not make that possible. Do you really want to take that risk? Do you want other parents to go through that? To wish that would be inhuman and very shallow. If we could not provide genetic screening for every child, which I would see as impossible considering the cost to individuals and the government, then we should not do it.
"Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations" by Nicholas Agar