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Where To Draw the Line With Embryo Selection?

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the godwin-bonanza dept.

Biotech 727

Tjeerd writes "There is currently a discussion going on in the Netherlands about embryo selection. The process means that when using in vitro fertilization, you can check what kind of genetic defects will definitely become activated during life. When embryos with those defects are identified, they can be avoided or destroyed. The next step the government is considering is to make it possible to select against genetic defects which might become active in life, such as breast and colon cancer. Of course, this is a very difficult discussion; where do you start, and where do you end? People are worrying that there is no real limit, and that you could potentially check for every genetic defect. I think if you're in a situation where you or your family have genetic defects, you surely want to check whether your children would have them too. What does the Slashdot community think about this?"

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727 comments

embryo's? (0, Troll)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975811)

Cute not pedo.

Government should not be involved at all (3, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975815)

Well I am not Christian, and certainly not Catholic. I have no concern, or consideration for a clump of cells.

Furthermore, I have a Penis. According to all the junkmail I get, it is a humiliatingly small penis that all the women laugh at hysterically, but the point is that I am a Man.

I don't think men should have any business telling a women what to do with their bodies, certainly not based on faith either.

That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

So I understandably have a hard time agreeing that government could declare a position either way on this. They should just be silent and mind their own business.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (5, Funny)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975877)

Anyone not involved should mind their own business? I agree with that. Government religion you listening? Hey! Religion, get your ass back here! Don't you walk away!!

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975879)

The only reason Gov't thinks it should be involved is because gov't has too much damn religion in it. Only religious people would ever think that the gov't should interfere in this process.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (3, Insightful)

whyareallthenamestak (892876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976075)

Right... so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976139)

so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

The same thing that happens now in these countries, except with less bashing babies' brains out or tossing them in the dumpster to die.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (3, Insightful)

pionzypher (886253) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976181)

Right... so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

You population dies out or moves away?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976221)

More guys have to go gay, and those societies reproduce less and die out. What's the problem with that? The girls get an absolute win in this situation because guys are willing to bend over backwards to get one of the few girls around.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

strawberryutopia (1301435) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976313)

More guys have to go gay, and those societies reproduce less and die out. What's the problem with that? The girls get an absolute win in this situation because guys are willing to bend over backwards to get one of the few girls around.

Sounds like a good society to live in to me! Although by your logic, lesbians would probably have to straighten up a little.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976423)

Yeah, I think the lesbians would get shafted because more of their potential partners would get lured into marrying rich as a trophy wife. So I guess most of the girls win, the lesbians don't.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976419)

Having every guy bend over backwards is in no way a win for women. Many women attempt to make men do that, but I've never met a woman who were attracted to that kind of behavior. Living in a world of wimps is no win for a woman!

On the contrary, a world with more men might be a win for the women precisely because then each woman could get a strong man who does *not* bend over backwards, but retains his power and masculinity. Although the larger supply might be counteracted by that supply having less experience. Who knows.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976229)

Right... so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

Then the population will shift madly, an entire generation will have to share wives or have half the population unwed, birthrates will drop like mad, and the countries ability to sustain itself will go to hell. And then the population will realize they really do need to have a balance between male and female and it will become a self-correcting problem. On a positive note: Once there's only 1 female for every 3 males, the males will actually have to start competing to get laid.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976491)

Most human populations are already well-aware that someone has to be having daughters in order for anyone at all to have grandchildren. The problem is that no individual family wants to be the one getting a raw deal from having a daughter instead of a son, so if this sort of catastrophe started to unfold, the population would come around to being in favor of government regulation against families sex-selecting their children, rather than "realizing" something they knew perfectly well to begin with. Hence the point of the example: we're discussing whether it's appropriate for government to become involved in such matters, and in the case of sex-selection, it's mostly clear that the answer is "yes."

As far as whether having a daughter instead of a son constitutes a "raw deal," I think it's fair to assume that it is, if we first assume that we're talking about a society where people would be inclined to select for sons over daughters in large enough numbers for it to be a problem to begin with.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976303)

Right... so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

We raise them up so they can suffer.

It would be a travesty of the highest order to deprive a misogynistic society of it's female victims.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (3, Insightful)

macaddict (91085) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976355)

Right... so what happens if being born female happens to be treated like a genetic defect in your country?

Well, as China is discovering, what happens is that you learn it is a BIG MISTAKE to remove girls from the population through sex selection, as the creation of embryos using two sperm, along with male pregnancy, have not yet been made viable options. Females are pretty much required to keep your country populated and functioning. You can get by with fewer males, but removing a large number of females from the population is essentially suicide for a culture/country.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (2, Interesting)

adminstring (608310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976473)

Last time I checked, China had a problem with overpopulation, not underpopulation. If they did have a problem with underpopulation, they could scale back their "one child per family" population-control policies and start propagandizing about how glorious it is to have a large family. I don't think that will happen any time soon.

It's a lot easier to solve an underpopulation problem (breed like rabbits or allow immigration) than it is to solve an overpopulation problem (try to limit reproduction and try to come up with enough food to feed everyone.)

Re:Government should not be involved at all (5, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975887)

That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

My argument against would be that folks that're "disabled" like me wouldn't have a chance to contribute to society as a whole....

In short, Beethoven. ;)

Re:Government should not be involved at all (4, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976079)

Wow. My first thought was not to touch your post with a 10 foot pole. I have a birth defect as well and I don't believe that life starts at conception. In any case, I am not the woman either.

If your mother could have chosen a different embryo other than yours, or repaired yours, would you of wanted that for her?

Tough questions, I know. My own sister missed an abortion by -> - much. I cannot imagine life without her.

I would never take anything away from disabled people. Ever. They have made tremendous contributions to society.

EVEN still, I would say that we don't have the rights to tell parents that they must have children with known defects, especially when there is a technical solution proven to work.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (4, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976223)

See the tag "gattaca"? That's exactly why anybody's talking about government regulation at all. If some babies are born perfect, they're the obvious candidates for high-paying jobs that require a lot of training.. why pay to send an engineer through grad school that's going to drop dead from a heart attack? Then the naturally-born children will be stuck with nothing. You might say that you could make it illegal to discriminate based on genetics, but the space program (now THAT's extensive, expensive training) already discriminates based on height/weight and if you're not healthy and strong you don't stand a chance- common sense. Ugly people won't get jobs as models- common sense. So it's not so far-fetched. Also, you may not be able to imagine life without your sister but if you never had your sister you certainly could imagine life.

If your mother could have chosen a different embryo other than yours, or repaired yours, would you of wanted that for her?

Obviously not, since "you" wouldn't be wanting anything. The counterfactual always hopelessly muddles questions of identity.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

lilmunkysguy (740848) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976133)

My argument against would be that folks that're "disabled" like me wouldn't have a chance to contribute to society as a whole.... In short, Beethoven. ;)

I didn't read anything showing that people with defects would not be allowed to contribute to society. The question is "do you want to limit the chances of genetic defects in your baby?" The question is not "do we regulate people without genetic screening, or people with 'defects', to a separate and lower class so that they cannot contribute to society".
A law saying all people are created equal may be necessary.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (2, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976383)

The I didn't read anything showing that people with defects would not be allowed to contribute to society.

...aside from keeping them from being born?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976481)

and someone else will just take there place

you act like we wouldn't make any progress if it wasn't for certain poeple existing.. if they hadn't have lived someone else would have. Human progress is a sum process not an individual process.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976143)

In short, Beethoven. ;)

If someone wants to have a disabled kid on the off chance that he's a Beethoven then fine. If society wants to raise up a few disabled kids on the off chance they're Beethovens well that's OK too.

What I would have a problem with would be if society forced me to bear the burden of raising a disabled kid on the off chance that society might benefit from a Beethoven. To put it another way, I don't personally like Beethoven's music enough to make it worth the trouble of raising a disabled kid.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976237)

S Cuio nin mellon!

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976275)

you'd still have the same skills with or without your disability i think. there are some terrible genetic illnesses that we should definately use this to help wipe out. seen the guy who grows toe nails all over his body?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976455)

you'd still have the same skills with or without your disability i think.

Yes and no. Aside from giving you a different perspective, there are things that I can't use/hear easily that are necessary to my job field.... Telephones, hearing BIOS beep codes, and noisy fans come to mind. Let me put it a different way:

If you took your PC to your local computer shop for a noisy fan, and the tech looked you in the eye and asked "What noise?", you might look at him funny. Happens all the time at work, and is why the boss and our front desk are pretty quick to announce to our clients that my hearing's shot... especially since one tried to yell at me for "not listening"...

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976411)

My argument against would be that folks that're "disabled" like me wouldn't have a chance to contribute to society as a whole....

Before your brain had developed sufficiently, you didn't exist. At best, there was the possibility of you developing, but there's little difference between preventing that possibility from being realized by abstaining from sex or preventing it from being realized by letting the embryo develop.

So, it makes no sense to talk about preventing you from contributing to society by not selecting your embryo. Now that you are an individual, you are a valuable member of society.

Embryos and people just aren't the same thing, so preventing other people with a disability from developing doesn't devalue your life, and it's a valid choice for parents to make.

In short, Beethoven. ;)

What disability do you think Beethoven was born with?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976469)

True but if someone has Breast Cancer, we don't let them die we try to cure it and if someone was born without functioning legs, we don't let them drag themselves around, we invent a wheelchair. In IVF, embryos die no matter what. In either situation, we'll try to help the person if they don't have good health. The question here is where do we draw the line? I really don't see the problem in choosing an embrio that isn't prone to breast cancer if you're just going to have to cure the breast cancer anyway. Why wait? I do think that we might need some kind of FDA to Ok certain selections. Especially when we get to the point where we can actually modify the DNA. Do we want people performing "Artificial Selection" instead of "Natural Selection" when they have no background in it and the selections have not been tested in Medical Studies similar to the ones that approve medical treatments? We don't want parents selecting against Sickle Cell only to later have a civilization prone to malaria because no testing had been done.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975941)

That being said, if you could choose the genetic make-up of your children and spare them any diseases or malformations I would be hard pressed to form an argument against it. Especially, since I would want the same for my children.

Genetic diversity.

Perhaps the only people who will survive the next great plague are the ones who do not have blue eyes nor blond hair.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976067)

This is actually a good reason to go against this (at least, to some extent). One generally accepted limit on marriage is to not let first cousins marry (and especially less siblings). The concern of genetic defects and so forth of kids that don't have that much genetic diversity.

On a related note, I recently found out that Illinois allows 1st cousins to marry if they are over 50 years old (little chance of kids, so they don't care).

Re:Government should not be involved at all (4, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976239)

A good reason? This is a fantastic reason. There's obviously nothing wrong with it if we know what we're doing, but due to the self-referential and recursive nature of DNA we could be screwing things up 5000 generations down the road. At least wait for more development in the field.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975977)

Unfortunately though, telling (and forcing) other people to believe what you believe seems to be a cornerstone of the human experience for the vast majority of people throughout the world. People don't want reasonable well thought out arguments; they want knee-jerk reactions that neatly fit into their black and white morality code that says when you start applying science to the process of human reproduction you're doing something very, very evil. Birth control is still widely rejected by certain religious groups as a sin so this new technology which seems even more heretical and is even less understood has little chance of being accepted. And with a broader group of people who are potentially offended by it, there's a greater chance it will be legislated to death.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (3, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975989)

I have ADHD (known to run in my family), dyslexia, weak ligaments, a predisposition to addictive substances and I'm damn smart.

Would I have been your kid?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (5, Funny)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976063)

No kid of mine would use code font for paragraph text.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Sodade (650466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976125)

I have a similar list and I wish my parents could have turned those bits off - they certainly don't contribute to my "damn smart"ness - why are you assuming that the whole mix is really that inter-related?

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976347)

Sounds like you could use a little GEB [wikipedia.org] for some perspective. They're not bits that you can flip on and off, DNA is highly recursive and chock full of self-reference and "strange loops". Not to mention the phenotype that develops is wildly complex.. can you imagine zapping a neuron to eliminate someone's love for strawberry ice cream? How much more ridiculous is the idea of changing embryonic DNA so that the brain that arises doesn't like strawberry? The love for strawberry is a combination of factors including not only the physics of tongues and nerves but also the person's experiences. And a person who hates strawberry ice cream wouldn't go to the ice cream parlor and meet her lifelong companion.. if you had never been ADHD/dyslexic/etc you would not be you! And you bet that means it would affect your intelligence.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976363)

I wouldn't claim they are necessarily related, but they could be for some people. There was an excellent Nova or Nature series about dogs (I think both did shows about it, but I think I'm thinking about the "Dogs and More Dogs" episode of Nova from a few seasons ago). IIRC, before humans started specifically breeding dogs for different characteristics, there was much less diversity in types of dogs. But as people bred dogs for specific behavioral characteristics, other 'unrelated' changes happened too, such as hair color and body type changes.

You could claim that that just means we can't modify the genome at a small enough level, and that could be true. It also may be that the specific genes control more than one aspect of a person/animal.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976161)

no,

The weak ligaments don't run in my family, so it is unlikely

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976263)

Nope. I would have dropped you for one of the other eggs. Sorry.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976395)

I have ADHD (known to run in my family), dyslexia, weak ligaments, a predisposition to addictive substances and I'm damn smart. Would I have been your kid?

You phrase that as if the choice is between smart and not smart.

If you had two eggs in front of you, and you wanted one child, and one egg is ADHD, dyslexic, weak, addictive and smart, and the other is healthy, strong (both mentally and physically) and is equivalently smart, which would you choose? Everyone would pick the second egg, unless you had mental issues with wanting a defective kid that resembled yourself (like those idiot deaf people who want deaf kids).

In fact, the second kid would probably be effectively smarter, since it didn't have all that baggage slowing him/her down.

And no, you don't have to be defective to be smart. There are plenty of smart people who are socially well adjusted.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976515)

I don't wish a kid that would be posting on Slashdot, like me.
I wish a kid that will be driving a Benz, with thousands worthy of bling, and picking all those hot video girls up... Having a life, for short...

There is no line. (2, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975999)

If you are going to do something with an embryo, you have crossed the line already and beyond that there aren't really any ethical questions, since it is already decided that the embryo has no intrinsic rights that need protecting. Any further regulation on the matter is just pandering to wine-and-cheese liberals.

Re:There is no line. (2, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976241)

Not true... animals have some "rights" conferred to them... c.f. that football guy who got in trouble for hurting dogs.

There is a line... if it would cause serious harm to a child that develops from it, yeah, that's not cool. Basically, you should be able to choose to discard a child, where allowing them to live would be considered cruel. Uh... down syndrome is questionable in this category (they enjoy life, they're just a burden upon parents... I would say, "sorry, not a disqualifiable condition) while cyclopia is definitely in this area (cyclopia typically causes spontaneous abortion on its own, and animals/humans born with cyclopia typically don't live very long at all.) as would something like severe osteogenesis imperfecta (weak bones, say like Mr Glass? they tend to die very early in life because of traumas) although non-severe osteogenesis imperfecta? Nope, sorry. It's just a medical inconvenience, not a medically cruel condition.

The issue comes, if we find a gene that leads to an increased risk of homosexuality (a lot of personality traits seem to be governed by genes, and conditions, and don't show a perfect correspondence, like say, being able to roll your tongue) Would a fundamentalist family be able to dismiss this, because they thinks it's a religious sin?

I totally understand where you're coming from, and for the most part, I have to agree. However, there's a fundamental error in making the sweeping statement "no line at all", because people can be excessively cruel in this world, and I'd hate to see what kind of in vitro selection criteria the Nazis would have devised....

Ah crap, sorry Goodwin's Law :(

Re:There is no line. (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976433)

Not true... animals have some "rights" conferred to them...

These aren't animals. These are humans. I'm arguing that is is flawed (or at best hypocritical) reasoning to make 'absolute' lines in the sand about these things when we are busily erasing old lines. Ethics/morality is a broken concept if you do this.

Down syndrome is questionable in this category

Nature already selects for us without us having to make ethical choices. Nobody is forced to help anyone beyond the basic care that is afforded to any healthy person. Therefore if someone can survive to term, then at birth, with basic care, then that is where, until now, we have been drawing the line. How can we determine this at embryonic stage? Having medical expertise myself, I definitely would not be prepared to claim I have that kind of foresight.

Risk of homosexuality

Already by calling it 'risk' you are making a judgement. And it's all so arbitrary, really. Homosexuality was a serious psychiatric disorder once, now it is celebrated. And just because a disease is terrible now, it may not be in the future when we have treatments for it.

However, there's a fundamental error in making the sweeping statement "no line at all"

Not really, because, if you call a 'line' an absolute limit, there are no such limits when you are making attribute selections and actively ending lives on that basis. We can take it anywhere we want and start erasing people of any age with any trait we don't like (white coats on or black hoods on, you choose). Sure, emotionally it 'feels wrong' to say that, but logically there are no impediments. My argument is that society is changeable enough that emotional constraints are usually temporary. Doctors are no better than the next person and just because we can do things cleanly and tidily doesn't make it OK.

Re:There is no line. (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976327)

Wait... Whut? Wine-and-cheese liberals don't want to regulate this. Conservative christians want to ban this.

This is fertility clinic stuff, very popular with conservatives, moderates, and liberals (despite the same 'loss of life' objected to in stem cell research). In terms of loss of life, you still made 10 eggs and use 1, you still threw away 9.

Re:There is no line. (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976447)

Conservative christians want to ban this.

Sure, I never said they wanted to regulate it. There's a big difference.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976007)

This is in-vitro fertilizization: i.e. "test tube babies. This doesn't have anything to do with telling a woman what to do with her body. This selection is all outside her body.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (4, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976117)

The question is, how do you prevent people picking a child simply based on arbitrary cosmetic reasons? "You're going to have a daughter, but her breasts will develop entirely lopsided" Really? Crap, ditch that one, let's try another.

The situation is worse combined with what I mentioned in another thread... we're all guaranteed to develop a genetic defect that will express itself as us being unable to generate vitamin C... if I didn't like some odd element of my prospective child (say, "he doesn't have blue eyes and blond hair") then I could simply say, "it has a genetic defect, so I can ditch this one, and try again."

Basically, the question is, how much should we play the role of natural selection? Some mutations have a more or less neutral effect upon humans, or even a negative effect upon us, however that negative effect has a positive effect in other cases, and results in an overall increase.

The issue here is, we shouldn't be able to start mandating genetic purity, and we should only be able to dismiss a child for reasons that would cause a medical illness requiring treatment... not simply "they don't match what I want."

What you "want" is to get away from natural selection and move towards some artificial selection, and while some of that is good (preventing down syndrome, and some other disorders) at the same time... we need to be careful what we throw away, or eliminate from the human genome by conscious choice.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (3, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976265)

I don't think men should have any business telling a women what to do with their bodies, certainly not based on faith either.

You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who advocates telling people what to do with their bodies. You can, however, find those who would like to legislate a measure of protection for other people's bodies (even if those bodies happen to temporarily be inside other people's bodies).

That being said, this really is a whatcouldpossiblygowrong situation. Disease is one thing, but what about aesthetics? Should people have the right to select babies based on more or less meaningless preferences? And of course, what of the people who were not preselected? Will they be forced to live out the life of one considered inferior?

Of course, that's the moral playing God standpoint, there's also the scientific playing evolution standpoint. Do you really think that we can play with genetics and foresee all the consequences? This could be a great way to dig ourselves into an evolutionary hole. Take the commercial Cavendish banana, for instance. Bred to be the best, and it stands to be wiped out by a single disease. Yeah, that's clonal propagation, but even if it were sexual reproduction, anything that limits the genetic pool tends to be a bad thing. For example, dog breeds were genetically concentrated into smaller populations, and they're medical train wrecks compared to mutts.

So, moral issues aside, genetic selection might work for a few generations, but then I'd bet it begins to come unglued, and the benefits dissipate when a bunch of weird-assed disease start poping up in the selected populations.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976311)

I have glaucoma, though not bad...little things like that suck. Who knows what else I might have/get. This isn't a terrible idea, it *benefits* the baby that is born.

Re:Government should not be involved at all (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976475)

I don't think men should have any business telling a women what to do with their bodies, certainly not based on faith either.

Being an atheist, I have no problem forcing woman to carry children to term and not killing them. I believe in the natural rights of every genetically unique individual no matter what stage of life, and an embryo has a natural joint ownership of the mother's body. (In the case of the mother's life in danger, then I support abortion, because the embryo is, in essence, "breaking the contract" of using the jointly owned body).

That said, I don't see how the government could possibly define what is and isn't acceptable. The perfect example are the deaf people who want to select deaf children. It's monstrous, but I don't know how we would draw the line. Maybe intentionally selecting defects would outlawed, but other than that, anything goes.

One Word . . . (2, Insightful)

wirehead_rick (308391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975851)

Gattaca

Re:One Word . . . (2)

Frac O Mac (1138427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975897)

That was my first thought too, but I think that the benefits far outweigh any perceived downsides.

Re:One Word . . . (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975913)

Gattaca

Actually, that should be GATTACA. And the reference is stupid anyways, as that make believe world is not even remotely visionary. Not one aspect of their civilization is actually sustainable. Sure, they have genetic screening and.. enhancement. But that's the only part of the movie that actually might make it to reality.

Re:One Word . . . (1)

Frac O Mac (1138427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975947)

The basis of the movie is that with parents selecting their children's genetic makeup to have "perfect" children, those who are born the normal way are discriminated against, it could easily happen.

Re:One Word . . . (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976205)

This is a likely eventuality, that is if the environment and world economies don't fall sometime in the next couple of centuries. It would be a bothersome transition, but in the long run, our species would likely have a net gain from it.

Instead of worrying about how fantastic things way down the line may happen, it's more reasonable to say we've got problems with genocide, starvation, and diseases nobody pays attention to now.

At this moment in history, I agree with the people who have posted saying we don't know what we are doing well-enough to safely interfere with the flow of human genetics. Case in point, we can breed Wolves into the varied shapes, sizes and features of dog we have now, but each one of those "designs" seem to come with a few compromises, many regarding the immune system. Not saying we shouldn't be trying, as we won't learn anything without taking a few knocks in the process.

Re:One Word . . . (3, Funny)

halsver (885120) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976003)

"You want to know how I did it!? I never saved anything for the swim back."

Retroactive Selection? (2, Funny)

Crash McBang (551190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975889)

Can we make selection retroactive?

There's several people I'd like to retroactively select...

vasectomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975901)

This is one of the reasons I got snipped; to avoid this whole nightmare-infested minefield.

Re:vasectomy (2, Funny)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976213)

...Because you were so likely to accidentally get involved in IVF??

Linux programming and asshole fucking (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975903)

Program my cock, bitches..

Easy (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975917)

Anonymous online voting. Pick an embryo, vote as often as you like.

I mean, a system like that isn't going to be any worse than a couple people choosing who gets to live or die based on genetic pre-requisites.

A counter example (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975939)

A weakness is not always a weakness.

Consider the old example that gets trotted out, time and time again: sickle cell anaemia. In the US, Australia, England, Canada, etc., it's a weakness, and is rare. But in Africa, it turns out that if you have one normal gene acting in tandem with one sickle cell anaemia gene (remember that genes always operate in pairs), you are more resistant to the effects of malaria.

Two sickle cell genes, and you're in trouble. One, and if malaria is prevalent, you're actually better off (but if it's not, you're slightly worse off.)

So just because a given gene variant is a weakness here and now in our society doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing overall. We simply don't know enough to judge the bigger picture in the general case.

Re:A counter example (1)

Sodade (650466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976163)

That's why we need to catalog all these genes for the future.

Re:A counter example (2, Interesting)

ClassMyAss (976281) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976309)

But that's not a reasonable argument. Sickle cell anemia is an extreme edge case, and most of the genetic variants we're talking about are unambiguously harmful, at least based on our current knowledge. And if that knowledge changes we'll adjust, but the way I see it is that at the moment we have at least a bit of an edge on the house. That we don't know exactly how much of an edge or which hands we might lose doesn't mean we shouldn't play the game, it just means that there's still some uncertainty. The odds are still for us.

While I'm with you that we don't necessarily know what we should and shouldn't be selecting for or against for the greater good of our race, are you really suggesting that given the choice (which we will very soon have as a species) there is ever any reason to choose to have the baby that's likely to die of colon cancer over the one without that increased likelihood? Keep in mind that natural selection tunes us a lot more blindly and with a lot less consideration for these possible consequences than direct selection - that appears to have worked fine, so I don't think adding a bit of thoughtful choice into the mix will cause us any great harm as a species. And we can, perhaps, start to select for traits that allow us to live significantly longer than childbearing age, which is the point where natural evolution says "screw it, I'm done!"

I say f--- natural, we're imperfectly constructed in a lot of obvious ways that we can maybe do something about for our children, and they could really use all the help they can get...

Re:A counter example (5, Informative)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976353)

This technique could allow selecting for 1/2 sickle cell in Africa though, no longer will 25% of their children be SOL one way and another 25% SOL the other way.

Go for it! (2, Insightful)

adminstring (608310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23975961)

I can's see anything wrong with selecting for gestation the embryo which will turn into the healthiest human. This will result in a net gain in health for millions of real humans in future generations, at the expense of millions of potential (meaning "not") humans - the rejected embryos. Since the rejected embryos have no consciousness, and the real humans do, I think it's a worthwhile trade-off. If there was any evidence that the rejected embryos could feel pain or have any awareness of their situation, I'd go the other way. But as it is, it's a (bad pun alert) no-brainer.

Re:Go for it! (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976141)

I can's see anything wrong with selecting for gestation the embryo which will turn into the healthiest human.

Except you're not. With the current technology you are selecting out embryos which carry single nucleotide polymorphisms [wikipedia.org] which are associated with certain deleterious traits. You are not selecting for "healthy", you are selecting for "not diseased" and not even that, just "less likelihood of being diseased" (likelihood depends on the specific trait).

The problem here is you don't really know what else you are selecting for or against. Again, in most cases, you aren't testing for the deleterious gene(s) itselft, you're using a proxy marker. Lots of unknowns here. I'm not sure I would be embracing this technology just yet.

Re:Go for it! (1)

adminstring (608310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976291)

I can see some benefit in being "not diseased" or even "less likely to be diseased" even if it is a long shot.

Since the alternative to embryo selection is literally a simple swimming race between sperm cells, I'd put my bet on embryo selection having a likelihood of a better outcome than the swimming race.

I'm sure in the future we'll have a better understanding of the markers and will do a better job of embryo selection, but even now it seems preferable to the alternative. At worst it's a waste of money and time; at best, it will improve the health of future generations of humans.

Re:Go for it! (2, Insightful)

sharkman67 (548107) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976323)

My wife and I are going through the in vitro process now. I agree that there is nothing wrong with selecting the healthiest embryo(s) for implantation. However, it was strongly recommended that unless there was a specific health issue within our families, a genetic biopsy on the embryos should not be done. The explanation was that while there is no evidence (due to lack of data) that the biopsy could damage the embryo the risks out weighed the gains for doing the procedure. It was refreshing to see a doctor take the high road and suggest against invasive tests even though our insurance would have covered the cost.

Keep Fucking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23975979)

As long as I'm allowed to have a defect kid, I should be free to have one.

All other people can do what they like.

Not all disorders are equal (1)

whyareallthenamestak (892876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976025)

If the genetic defect will cause the person to suffer and be dependent on others for their entire life why would anyone allow the embryo to develop? It seems more cruel than terminating a clump of cells.

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976029)

People are afraid that we could screen out all defects?
What's wrong with that?
I wish my ancestors did it so that I (or whoever would be in my place) wouldn't have that constantly annoying eyesight problem...

OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976035)

Imagine an embryo wearing a hat like the one in this article's "Politics" subject icon! That's where I draw the line. It would look like the gutbuster alien dancing down the diner countertop [youtube.com] at the end of Spaceballs.

Seriously, if you do an ultrasound, and you see the little greasy goblin wearing a hat, just flatten your wife's belly with the broadside a shovel, right then and there.

Humans aren't smart enough to choose (1, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976045)

I consider myself a Christian, and while I see no problem with this in relation to my beliefs, I think that there are far too many unknowns and variables involved. The process of evolution has worked just fine so far, let it be. I don't think we are yet intelligent enough to control this aspect of humanity.

The real ethical dilemma (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976049)

Do we select FOR or AGAINST the thinkslikecowboyneal gene?

Re:The real ethical dilemma (1)

halsver (885120) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976165)

Clearly there should be a poll that lets /. users pick the genes that are selected. Cowboy Neal gene will of course be included.

Who gets to draw the line? (1)

Sodade (650466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976051)

I think that I should have the right to genetically engineer my child. I also think that I don't have the right to "BF Skinner" my child. Do you see the distinction?

What constitutes 'weakness' or 'defect'? (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976135)

That's the real issue, in my opinion where it is GROSSLY obvious that a defect will harm the child severely then we should. I really doubt our science (and scientists) are capable at present at deciding what is a 'defect' when no studies have been done and data is not available, since what one might consider a defect, may not be, or maybe tied to a whole host of other issues once development starts, after all if you're going to discard emybryos with percieved small 'defects', the error in judgement of what constitutes a defect is rather large.

If we coul we would monitor and control the growth and eliminate 'defects' during the whole term of a pregnancy or even as we grow throughout are life but this is just not feasable realistically, at some point an embryo is 'good enough', and I really don't think we have the knowledge at present to judge very accurately what constitutes a 'defect' at smaller levels without studies and long term data to back it up.

Re:What constitutes 'weakness' or 'defect'? (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976189)

Yes I am replying to my own post, hit reply there before finishing. I mean that what one might consider 'smaller defects', are they really 'defects', how does one determine defect from being different? If one looks at how life evolves, we might consider many species today as a result of 'defects'.

So when considering smaller defects, just what is the evidence for it's implications, and what kind of data do we have on them? That's the question I'd ask before discarding them.

I don't know where but farther than embryo (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976159)

I'm don't care at all about 100 or 10,000 or maybe even 100,000 cells. I realize they have the spark of human life, but still I think it's unreasonable and hypocrite to be so protective about embryos.
I'm a vegetarian, because I value a living, breathing, eating, (thinking?) creature more than a squishy thing that won't even fit on my little pinkies nail.

Gattaca (0, Redundant)

TheTornOne (847602) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976201)

Anyone else have a Gattaca feeling as i do :D

And the government is getting involved... (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976203)

Why???

I don't see a problem (4, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976209)

(1) Either it works or it doesn't, for improving offspring.

(2) Lots of people won't be able to afford embryo selection, so humans will continue to explore both options.

I don't see a problem.

Re:I don't see a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976449)

((2) Lots of people won't be able to afford embryo selection, so humans will continue to explore both options.

I don't see a problem.

As this technology becomes more common it will also become cheap enough for anyone to afford, but there will always be accidents every now and then that will allow for new combinations of genes.

Gattaca (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976227)

There was a great movie made on this *very* topic it is called Gattaca and you should watch it.

Also the extended idea which you didn't get to is the danger of species becoming to same/sterile/loosing it's diversity/"breeding" out x quality which appeared bad at first but turns out to be only thing to save species from existential threat. Examples abound in modern sci-fi Thor's race from SG-1 comes immediately to mind.

I'm sure there are many sci-fi books exploring same.

I think the key issue is.. (1)

Boetsj (1247700) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976253)

that when selecting from half dozen "viable" embryos, the choice should always be for the embryo with the lowest risk of becoming terminally ill (i.e. suffer from lack of quality of life). The embryos are being tested for scores of possible defects anyway - why not choose the one that has the smallest disposition of developing a terminal disease amongst those embryos available?

Scientists. (0)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976261)

The current tech may show which people are physically more viable to contract a disease/illness, but what about human minds? How many Stephen Hawkins are people going to kill in the quest for perfection?

People should have the right to do anything within the limits of their personal freedom, and government should shut up. That is not the issue (hopefully we are all educated people who agree). The problem is whether people should actually go ahead and use those rights, and under what circumstances. The worst thing you can do to mankind is deprive it of a great mind.

What is a defect? (1)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976299)

The big problem I see here is the simple fact is the concept of "defect" is subjective.

Most people would agree that a disease that will cause death at a very early age or remove the child's ability to function would be a defect.

But, like he said, where does it end? Is red hair a defect? What if they find the specific gene for sexual preference? Is that now a defect?

Is being under/over a certain height or high probability of being overweight?

Brown eyes? Left handedness?

Where does it start and, if it's expensive to screen, will it only allow the rich to be "defect-free"?

Seems simple to me (4, Insightful)

HeavensBlade23 (946140) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976301)

If most of the embryos created in the process are going to be destroyed anyway, you might as well select for good health. If you have a problem with that, you likely have a problem with that kind of fertility treatment in general.

Not the point... (4, Insightful)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976305)

I think it's odd that some commenters are treating this as a "is killing a clump of cells ethical" issue. In IVF, some of the embryos will be implanted and some won't. The ones that won't are (usually) disposed of. Embryos will be disposed of either way, whether you pick which ones to dispose based on genetic defects or not. If you have a problem killing a clump of cells, you will have a problem with this no matter what.

This issue presented HERE is the ethics involved in picking and choosing which embryos to implant rather than choosing at random, which would most closely (as far as we know) mimic the random selection of an egg to release and a sperm to make it to the egg. Totally different issue, with totally different ramifications - like the evolutionary path of our species. (You could argue that legalizing abortion also affects our evolutionary path b/c certain populations are now less likely to give birth - but the fact is that abortions happen whether they're legal or not. Genetic engineering of this sort is likely to be extremely rare if illegal.)

Gattaca (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976315)

The movie Gattaca explores this situation. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/

Health Insurance, Employment, et al... (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976341)

So... once that clump is selected for gestation who keeps track of it? Can you sue if it does get something like cancer? Will your health insurance at work give you a discount for selecting a Grade A Choice Cut kid? Will your employer offer a discount? Will your employer offer an educational bonus if you sign a contract saying the kid will work for the first 4 years after university for them? After all, they paid for part of that kid (via your insurance plan) and if they offer an edu discount then they should reap the benefit of that windfall. Will the gov. get to choose where that kid is educated? Presumably a school full of Grade A's will have less problems and all need better education. Will you get to live in a better house? Since that investment will need to be protected more than say a raw birth.

Just because we can do something, does not mean we should.

Wrong question (2, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976345)

The question isn't "should parents do this" - they will. The real dilemna will come when children with genetic problems start suing there obstetricians - or parents - for "wrongful birth" or "wrongful life".

"Dr. Whatisface was negligent in not compelling Mr. And Mrs. Doofus to take a genetic test prior to young Jimmy Doofus being born; Jimmy is under the average height for a male, which is obviously a genetic defect, and therefore the embryonic Jimmy should never have been implanted and brought to term. We therefor ask the court to find for the plaintiff and compell the defendant to support poor, short Jimmy for the rest of his life."

Viable life at the 52nd Trimester (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976369)

As a Christian, I draw the line at The words "Screw You, Im not doing that..." Or complete rebellion. Until then, they are just an undifferanted mass of protoplasm, kinda like telephone support in third world countries. Somewhere around the 52nd trimester. Anything else we should be allowed to terminate, after they gather the intelligence to totally rebel! Now thats viable life! ( important exception, of course is village idiots from Texas ).

Taste (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976405)

Obviously the decision point is whether or not it will make a tasty good balut. [wikipedia.org]

Very tough call I'd say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976407)

On the one side, one my best friends Father died of Huntington's chorea. This is a hereditary disease that usually doesn't manifest itself until adulthood.
This used to mean you would pass it on to your children without knowing you even had it. There are genetic tests now for it however.

My friend took the noble course of having a vasectomy just to be sure he couldn't pass it on.

To make a long story short, my friend died in his twenties, in a very unpleasant way. It affects you both mentally and physically. His two brothers also died slow and painfully from the disease.

Can you imagine the Mothers pain losing not only her Husband but her three sons from this genetic disease?

Testing for this kind of disease certainly would seem reasonable to say the least.

But where do you or society draw the line?

Do we discard embryos that don't code for blue eyes and blond hair, or whatever ones preference?
what about height, intelligence and personality traits? Certainly we will eventually be able to understand the genetic code enough to pick and choose any characteristics we would want in our offspring.

All I can say is that it looks like a slippery slope from disease prevention to dehr Fuhrers dream of a master race.

could one man's "defect" be another's blessing? (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976445)

i understand the drive to rationalize and simplify genetics and turn it fast into applied technology, but is it useful at all to discuss the issue in this context at all at this point, where our knowledge about genetics is still in its infancy?

my (lay and lame) understanding of the issue is that even if a gene is present, it is by no means certain that it is involved only in a single phenotype manifestation, or that a particular manifestation will occur for a single organism.

if even the best geneticists cannot give more than a statistical estimate about the development of certain phenotype traints, if a gene that is "harmful" in one situation could be "beneficial" in another, and if a person is considered to be more than their genotype, why not focus on treating a disease if such develops, instead of eliminating a remote _possibility_ by trying to remove a supposedly "harmful" gene from the gene pool (which appears to be the end goal here, even if that is not stated directly)?

since genetic variation is the basis of evolution, "curing" by eliminating variation could in the long term bring more problems that it will solve. it could be a bit like throwing out a bunch of "legacy code", and finding out you threw out your business model along with it ;)

What's a defect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23976461)

I'm concerned that eventually children being hard to control will be a removable defect; one that may even be outlawed as unruly children may become bullies or criminals. We'll have an entire generation of sheep people.

Does it really matter? (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23976483)

We are nearing solutions for most of these genetic problems for those who are already living. Do we really need to include the gattaca argument in todays society?
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