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Designer Babies

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“A child is like a butterfly. In the wind some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other? Each one is special. Each one is different. Each one is unique.”

 A designer baby is a baby that is the result of genetic screening or genetic modification. Embryos may be screened before they are implanted or possibly gene therapy techniques could be used to create traits in a child that the parents would like the child to posses. In medicine and in genetics, embryo screening is a procedure done on embryos before they are implanted. It is not new technology, designer babies were created in 1989 and the first designer baby was born in 1990. The concept of designer babies can seem like a good idea but when you look a little deeper I think you'll agree that it’s not that simple

There are two types of designer babies. The first type is a designer baby which has been selected when a known inherited gene could pass on a debilitating illness such as Huntington’s disease. When an embryo is screened for specific genetic diseases or for the risk of getting a genetic condition it avoids potential abortion and for most cases the child will not have grow up with that disease. This is currently legal in Australia and is offered to families who may be considering having children and are known carriers of certain genetically carried conditions.

With such advancements in this technology another type of designer baby is becoming a possibility in the near future. This is the type of baby where parents can select non-medical traits such as sex, hair colour and other cosmetic features, intelligence or athletic ability. Currently in some countries gender is the only non-medical trait that can be offered but even though scientists have not discovered how to select cosmetic features, intelligence and athletic ability some are estimating that by 2020 parents will be able to choose these traits. This type of designer baby is very controversial. I believe a designer baby is morally wrong and potentially dangerous for many reasons including interfering with evolution, assumptions about what makes a perfect person and problems when gender is imbalanced in society.

Evolution alone should convince you that this is not acceptable. We are always evolving, evolution happens for a reason.  We do not understand evolution completely so if we select out certain genes we could be changing something about future generations that we shouldn’t. Designer babies are trying to take control of our own evolution and future by manipulating which genes are selected. There is always the frightening possibility of unforeseen side effects. There was a case of a mouse that was “successfully” engineered to have a better memory. This change, however, was linked to a gene that also caused the mouse to develop much higher pain sensitivity. I find the thought of this type of mistake happening with humans terrifying. We could also put our species at risk of being wiped out by a disease that normally would only put some at risk due to evolution diversity.

Another reason designer babies should not occur is because in society there are stereotypes of what people perceive equals success which are not always correct. People for designer babies are generally very focused on the child’s IQ but it’s just a score from one of many standardised tests designed to assess an individual's intelligence. This ignores the importance of environment. The reason more students from MLC will go to uni compared to a school in a low social economic area is not because we have more students with a higher intelligence but because we have environments which allow us to reach our potential. You don’t need to be Einstein to realise that environment can’t be genetically selected.

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