Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Designer Baby Given Go-ahead

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the organlegging dept.

Biotech 65

An anonymous reader writes "A couple in the Australian city of Melbourne has been given the legal go ahead to breed a genetically modified 'designer' baby to cure their terminally ill child."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

super (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5490731)

super duper. this is pretty creepy. i don't like it at all.

Re:super (3, Insightful)

Simon Field (563434) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491855)


Do you think amneocentesis is creepy? Or does it depend on the reason?

People test babies in the womb, and make a choice to end the pregnancy if the baby has severe problems. This may seem creepy to some, but it is accepted medical practice.

People also use the testing to determine the sex of the baby, and make a choice to end the pregnancy. This is often much more objectionable to more people than the first scenario.

We have already had people create children to be organ donors for other children. There were ethical concerns about that as well, but it was determined to be acceptable.

As time goes by, we accept what becomes commonplace. There have been cultures where inter-racial marriage was against the law, on grounds not unsimilar to your feeling "creepy" about testing IVF results before implantation.

IVF itself caused quite a stir. Some wondered whether the first "test-tube" baby would be psychologically damaged by the publicity or the knowledge. On the other hand, this is one kid who can be certain there was no accident.

Consider this: IVF itself usually generates several candidates for implantation, and often not all of them are used. The unused candidates are discarded. But they contain the same cells that the umbilicus carries, and have the same ability to save the first child. Why are the ethicists insisting that a child be carried to term? If two out of three candidates are never implanted in a womb, why implant any? Or is it that once the couple has gone to all of the expense of IVF to save the first child, they might as well implant the candidate, and get the second child they wanted anyway, with a guarantee that it does not suffer from the same problem as the first one? Perhaps it is just two birds with one stone.

I am not forcing my ethics on this couple or any other. Whether I would have made their choice or not is unimportant. But I am glad that I do not have that choice to make. Many of us would bend our ethics to save our only child.

How many of you would donate some umbilical blood to save a sibling, assuming your parents had the foresight to preserve it? Many would donate a kidney, or a lung. It seems unlikely that this child will regret the decision later in life. He was conceived on purpose. Great effort was made to ensure that he did not have genetic problems. The blastocyst that he came from could have been used as it was, instead of being implanted to create him. I don't think this kid will suffer emotional upheaval when he is told about his special circumstances. Is his case any more disturbing than being told you were adopted? Many people get over that.

If this is "playing god", then so is most of medicine. Perhaps playing god is a noble ambition, a better role model than playing first person shooter.

Congratulations (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5493587)

You fell for the FP troll. LOL.

Yeah baby! (0, Offtopic)

JDWTopGuy (209256) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490780)

So, like, is it going to be hot?

Re:Yeah baby! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5493366)

> So, like, is it going to be hot?

yep! 98.6 degrees!

Not quite (4, Informative)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490783)

Screened, not modified.

Re:Not quite (1)

JustAnOtherCodeSerf (181281) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491081)

Now now, all things in good time.

Watching the inevitable come to pass is both frightening and oddly entertaining.

Re:Not quite (1)

42forty-two42 (532340) | more than 11 years ago | (#5505828)

Your superior genes are no match for my puny lawyers!

I am opposed to this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5490790)

By economic analysis, the more humans there are, the less they are worth. If we are to keep the price of humans high, we must have fewer of them.

If only... (2, Funny)

C0LDFusion (541865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490795)

...more people would ask permission to have kids, the world would be a better place.

Re:If only... (0, Flamebait)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491121)

Yeah, damn straight. The world would definitely be a better place if people with an IQ below 80 were legally required to be sterilized so they can't have stupid children.

As a side note, it has been conclusively proven that there is a very high correlation between genetics and intelligence, even though the number of genes involved is far too complicated to isolate any specific culprits thus far. Studies have shown that identical twins almost always have an IQ within 5 points of each other. The variation among fraternal twins is a bit larger, and among siblings it's a bit larger, and among unrelated people it is even larger. The identical twins statistic alone proves nothing because of the confounding variable of the environment, but the dramatic progression from identical to fraternal to regular siblings is incontrovertible evidence for my point.

Re:If only... (1)

Aidos (624295) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491293)

Meng, fsck that. We all (you should) know that an IQ test only your ability to score well on an IQ test. Fsck Eugenics, and that is what you are calling for. Kill people if I don;t like who they are. Eugenics. Tried. Died. Go away

Re:If only... (1)

C0LDFusion (541865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491406)

Eugenics, no. But you have to admit that stupid people breed at a faster rate than smart people. Shit, in high school, all the smart kids were busy learning the things that'll get them REAL hot partners while all the stupid people were busy banging with mediocrity.

Now, where's my $30 million and a supermodel?

Uhm, no (3, Interesting)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492163)

We all (you should) know that an IQ test only your ability to score well on an IQ test.
How do we know that?! That is not what the psychologists doing the research say.

See e.g. the part on general intelligence here. [duke.org]

It is a controversial subject [mugu.com] because of social discussions (separate from marxists seeing red when discussing innate mental characteristics).

(Your point is valid for another reason. It is not trivially a good thing to remove "unpopular" features like low intelligence from the gene pool since those features probably have other genetic effects that we might be poorer as humans if they are not in our societies. But if it was my child and I could select for higher intelligence, I would.)

Re:Uhm, no (2, Interesting)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5494907)

It is not trivially a good thing to remove "unpopular" features like low intelligence from the gene pool since those features probably have other genetic effects that we might be poorer as humans if they are not in our societies.

Yeah, features like being able to dig ditches and operate heavy machinery. If we were all smart, there would be no room for eveyone in the smart jobs. Unless of course we use our smarts and create robots to do the dumb jobs a la animatrix.

Disclaimer: This is not my view, but is one that is alive and well.

Re:Uhm, no (2, Insightful)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5495196)

Yeah, features like being able to dig ditches and operate heavy machinery.
I was thinking more like this hypothetical case that might show up in ten years:
Some common combinations of genes might give a high chance of some mental disease. But also a high chance of artistic talent. Would it be worth losing those artists to save some people from mental disease?

The answer to that depends on lots of factors. (Will there probably be an easy treatment for the disease when the child is grown? How high chance for artistic talent or mental disease? How valuable are those artists to society? Etc, etc.)

Genes and inheritance is a very complex subject -- and then environmental influences complicates it much more...

You probably should think twice when taking decisions in this area -- but I am of the opinion that control of our genes is necessary and will be a very good thing for humanity (given democracy and some regulatory sanity-checks on modifications).

Disclaimer: IANAG (I am not a geneticist.)

Re:Uhm, no (2, Interesting)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5495295)

I was thinking more like this hypothetical case that might show up in ten years:
Some common combinations of genes might give a high chance of some mental disease. But also a high chance of artistic talent. Would it be worth losing those artists to save some people from mental disease?

Good point. Another one would be concentrated leadership skills tied with megolomania. It is too easy for people in general to want their kids to "have it all" and they would want to take this to extremes. I am someone who dislikes governmental control in any form, so to embrace this technology with the caveat of regulation is a very scary proposition. I would rather see the technology only used to cure existing people as in the linked story, rather than to design people. But then again, I am a card carrying religous freak so I am not to be trusted...

Re:Uhm, no (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5495711)

I am someone who dislikes governmental control in any form, so to embrace this technology with the caveat of regulation is a very scary proposition.
There must be some limit for parents' rights to fsck the lives of their children!! Children are people; it is illegal to rape them, too.

I would rather see the technology only used to cure existing people as in the linked story, rather than to design people. But then again, I am a card carrying religous freak so I am not to be trusted...
Cure what!?!? The point of my example was that it is hard to decide what should be cured. Let's take a real example, based on you being religious and me being a hard line atheist.

I consider religion to be insane ideas that you can inflict on children if you indoctrinate them early enough. (I am from Sweden -- most people doesn't indoctrinate children and have something like less than 10% of the population going to a church more than once in a given year...)

I would be against Xian, muslim, etc "freaks" inducing this kind of mental instability [newscientist.com] into their children... Something some religious people would do.

And, further, I would bet money that religious people with that kind of mental problems would be angry if someone tried to hinder their children from inheriting them...

Those religious freaks would not consider the mental problem giving them faith a mental problem.

Re:Uhm, no (2, Interesting)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5495857)

Clearly you and I are on different ideological grounds, but that does not preclude us from agreeing.

There must be some limit for parents' rights to fsck the lives of their children!! Children are people; it is illegal to rape them, too.

Granted it is illegal to rape them. Why is it illegal to rape them? If we use your arguments, the idea of society and social norms (like rape, murder, etc.) comes from induced mental programming by parents, teachers, peers, etc. What if the opposite norms were induced? (Rape and murder are acceptable...) As a person living in that kind of society would you have the same views? This kind of relativistic (and circular) thinking is flawed. You can't tell me that there must be a limit on how parents teach their children by pointing out that society (a product of parental teaching) mandates this.

Cure what!?!? The point of my example was that it is hard to decide what should be cured.

Lots of things. Down's syndrome, heart disease, palsey, alsheimer's, Parkinson's, etc. Genetic screening and genetic manipulation are whay is being discussed in the article and can cure the above diseases/conditions.

I consider religion to be insane ideas that you can inflict on children if you indoctrinate them early enough.

To each his own, but you cannot enforce your views on other people, just like I cannot make you believe in God.

Something some religious people would do.

How do you know what all religious people would do? Sweeping generalizations like that are at the root of most hate in the world. I don't pretend to believe that all religious people are great, but that does not make the reverse true.

Re:Uhm, no (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5496866)

If we use your arguments, the idea of society and social norms (like rape, murder, etc.) comes from induced mental programming by parents, teachers, peers, etc.
You took a trivial point and mixed it with the point coming after; they are more separate. (I think the evidence support that certain things are builtin -- such as a distaste for being raped bad enough that many victims commit suicide.)

My argument was an answer to your doubts on official limitations on what is legal to do to children. To e.g. give children extreme physical or mental disabilities should be illegal. And there are some parents that does (and will do) that.

Children have human rights, too. If they are violated, the police (through the state) should step in and protect them -- since they don't have any rights themselves. (I hope you still accept the existence of a police? If not, read up on clan societies before moving to Afghanistan; no fun to live in.)

We're done with that misunderstanding, I hope?

To each his own, but you cannot enforce your views on other people, just like I cannot make you believe in God.
If you check the article, you'll see that it was about a mild mental disease that made people more religious. (I argued, with Sweden and USA as examples, that if you don't indoctrinate children into a religion -- they don't become religious. That was behaviour, this is (probably) genetically influenced.)

Again:
My argument was that many religious people would inflict that on their children so they won't go to hell (and parents with that exact problem would not look happy at having it removed from their children!)

So we have a mental problem that tend to make people more religious. You're religious and the doctor says that your child will get that problem. Will you ask the disease to be fixed?

(To be complete, I am not arguing that Sweden is better or worse than USA. That is a completely different issue on which I'm quite ambivalent.)

Re:Uhm, no (1)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5498191)

Children have human rights, too.

I agree. One thing I must point out is that my arguments are not necessarily my beliefs! I certainly oppose any abuse of children regardless of how you define abuse. However, perspective is everything in a civil society. Before fast travel became common, society became whatever it wanted in various parts of the world. Headhunters, cannibalism, polygamy, female circumcision and many other brutal practices were not only performed, but sanctioned by these "mini" societies. My point was not to "twist" anything you said, but merely to show the inherent confusion it is to use society to justify the actions of a society.

I hope you still accept the existence of a police? If not, read up on clan societies before moving to Afghanistan; no fun to live in.

The police, fire and other services do serve a purpose and I welcome them. However, governments have historically over reached their authority to intrude on the private affairs of their citizens. Being from the US, I have a slightly different view on governmental influence than someone from Sweden. There are great benefits to living in a more socialist society, but at a great cost to freedom, privacy and independence (IMO). I align myself with Henry D. Thoreau who taught that, "That government which governs least, governs best." In fact, he went so far as to say that the perfect society, in which each person was perfectly virtuous, would need no government because there would be nothing to protect against.

If you check the article, you'll see that it was about a mild mental disease that made people more religious.

Sure, but that does not make religion bad, which is what I detected your argument as hinting at.

I argued, with Sweden and USA as examples, that if you don't indoctrinate children into a religion -- they don't become religious. That was behaviour, this is (probably) genetically influenced.

Okay, first of all let me see if I understand. You are saying in the first sentence that religon is learned. In the second sentence you claim that it is probably genetically influenced (not learned or partially learned). As for the first, I would wager that there is some powerful evidence supporting that. However, don't confuse natural tendencies with desires. For example, I grew up in a home that was decidedly without religion. My friends did not practice religion and I had little to do with God until I went to college. Only since then have I developed religous feelings, regardless of parental influence. Even today, I stand at odds with my parents on God. It had to do with my personal choices and desires, that preclude anything a parent can do or say. In fact, I would argue that improper (without love or concern) parenting leads to moral (religous or societal) decay faster than any single other factor.

So we have a mental problem that tend to make people more religious. You're religious and the doctor says that your child will get that problem. Will you ask the disease to be fixed?

That depends on if I consider it a problem. The New Scientist article you pointed to was talking about OCD. Other studies have also pointed to causes of OCD and are more general, stating that OCD comes from many sources (head injuries, upbringing, trauma, etc.) Even the article itself states, "But the study cannot say for certain that religious devotion early in life causes OCD symptoms. It is equally likely that people with those character traits feel more drawn to a religious lifestyle and devote themselves to God." Therefore, there is no direct correlation between religion and OCD.

Re:Uhm, no (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5498848)

Before fast travel became common, society became whatever it wanted in various parts of the world. Headhunters, cannibalism, polygamy, female circumcision [...]
The physical parameters and how people work decide the stable ways that society might be organized. That is both quite trivial and irrelevant. (I doubt it was just travel that was the deciding factor -- this is one point I think Marx got right.)
I align myself with Henry D. Thoreau who taught that, "That government which governs least, governs best."
Not relevant, but having lived in Sweden for all my life I'm starting to agree, at least partly. Another discussion.

Therefore, there is no direct correlation between religion and OCD.
There is yet no direct proof if this kind of brain damage that makes people devout is environmental or inherited. It will be found (unless some churches manage to squash the research!) So make a hypothetical argument out of it and answer my question.

Only since then have I developed religous feelings, regardless of parental influence.
Your argument would probably be that there exists a true religion and that you saw the truth your family didn't see. This happens in the best of families (excuse the joke!) all over the world.

There are a few people like you here in Sweden, finding religion late. Strange that more than 95% of you guys that "see the light" go to the big religions they were influenced with as children -- and that those religions you guys find contradict each others, given that your standpoint must be that the contradicting religions are false...

Let me tell you about when I first went to Ireland in the beginning of the 90ies. I knew that people there where devout. They had recently voted 51/49% on abortion. So I expected to meet a lot of religious nuts. But I didn't meet any, despite knowing that half the population voted to not allow abortions?!

The people that are religious in Sweden are... let's call them "seekers". They feel a need for something and looks around until they find it. Be it alcohol, the cross or something else. The religious people in Ireland was not like that. They had just grown up in the religion with all people around them believers -- they say fish aren't aware of the water. So the religious people of Ireland weren't at all like the nuts at home. They were normal people that had never thought about the problem.

Not relevant, really, but it was an experience that changed my world view.

Re:Uhm, no (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5499406)

Granted it is illegal to rape them. Why is it illegal to rape them? If we use your arguments, the idea of society and social norms (like rape, murder, etc.) comes from induced mental programming by parents, teachers, peers, etc. What if the opposite norms were induced? (Rape and murder are acceptable...) As a person living in that kind of society would you have the same views? This kind of relativistic (and circular) thinking is flawed. You can't tell me that there must be a limit on how parents teach their children by pointing out that society (a product of parental teaching) mandates this.

A poor straw man. Morality need not have anything to do with religion. Morality is a social contract or code of conduct that everyone must comply with for the sake of the common good, and the people have the right to form a government to enforce it. The sole category of actions which can have any moral weight are those which affect a sentient life form without its informed consent. Religion-based morality is deeply flawed because it construes many victimless things to be immoral, and in some cases is used to justify things that would be obviously immoral to any freely thinking person (jihaads, crusades, and the like). A lot of the taboos are completely irrational and insane, such as pork, non-kosher foods, homosexuality, "graven images", and women showing any skin whatsoever. If religion were based on any semblance of thinking, it wouldn't be so hereditary. A morality, logically deduced and based on the social contract and the common good, is much stronger and more resiliant because it is based on logic and the facts of social existance, not one's blind and often inconstant faith what one's parents proclaimed was right and wrong.

Addendum (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5499476)

The first paragraph is a quote from the parent comment. I forgot the italics.

Re:Uhm, no (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5506624)

Some common combinations of genes might give a high chance of some mental disease. But also a high chance of artistic talent.

What's the difference? How many sane, comprehensible famous writers/artists do you know of? It's a pretty small percentage. Faulkner and Hemmingway were off their rockers, Van Gogh and Picasso were crazy, Most philosophers were off their rockers (especially Hegel, Kierkegaard and Aquinas)

Re:Uhm, no (1)

C0LDFusion (541865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5498211)

You're assuming every smart person WANTS a job that requires high-level education. I know alot of smart people who take construction jobs because they are simple, require little to learn, and pay well. Work for a small portion of the year, and live frugally. Then you have much more time for what you REALLY love, not do 80-hour weeks for 90% of the year for something related to something you love.

In addition, anyone who has made a job of what they love most knows the truth. Once you make a job of it, it simply becomes WORK. And Work Sucks.

Re:Uhm, no (1)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5498473)

You're assuming every smart person WANTS a job that requires high-level education. I know alot of smart people who take construction jobs because they are simple, require little to learn, and pay well. Work for a small portion of the year, and live frugally. Then you have much more time for what you REALLY love, not do 80-hour weeks for 90% of the year for something related to something you love.

I couldn't agree more. There are exceptions, but if you asked anyone living under the poverty line the one thing they wanted most for their kids, they would say, "To give them a better life than mine". They would likely try to get the best smart genes for their kids they can because smarts are generally associated with success and wealth.

Oops!? (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5497337)

I read the reference by Bernard D. Davis much earlier when finding out if I wanted to read "Mismeasure of man" and just searched for the title of the paper (it wasn't where I read it a few years ago). The reference seems to be to some anti-semitist site!?

Bernard D Davis is, as far as I know, a serious researcher. The reason he is listed is probably because of this [prometheusbooks.com] book [skeptic.de] .

(I could have choosen other references that attacked the "intelligence is only the ability to write tests" viewpoint.)

(This is extra embarassing since I'm a big fan of Woody Allen, Seinfeld, etc. I have said quite often that I should convert; Jewish atheists seems to have more fun than we xian atheists! For Sweden, my opinions are extremely pro-Israel -- which sadly isn't hard.)

Re:If only... (2, Insightful)

Flamerule (467257) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491361)

Just a small point:
The variation among fraternal twins is a bit larger [...]
The variation among fraternal twins should be identical to that of ordinary siblings. Genetically, fraternal twins are ordinary siblings, born at the same time.

Re:If only... (1)

CarlDenny (415322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5497699)

Not true. Genetically, they are the same, but they shared a whole lot of developmental environment in the womb, which is likely to have a significant impact on brain development. Ontogenetically (developmentally) they are much more closely related than two ordinary siblings.

For example, fraternal twins seem to have the same correlation of left-handedness as identical twins. I understand this is because left handedness is often caused by elevated testosterone levels in the womb (which is also why more men are left handed.)

The person you were replying to is also wrong. Intelligence is nowhere near as strongly correlated as they imply. It seems to be about 50% genetic. I don't know where he came up with almost always within 5 IQ.

Re:If only... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5500306)

I don't see where he came up with 5 IQ points, or where you came up with 50% genetic. Saying someone is wrong doesn't mean anything, care to share your sources?

In my psycology class when discussing IQ tests and the sort, it was said that the best IQ tests were only accurate to within 10 or so points, so to say a 5 point (not very significant) difference could possibly mean a 25 point (very significant) difference.

Re:If only... (1)

CarlDenny (415322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5504784)

If you are actually interested in reading about heritability of intelligence, I recommend Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate (and the slew of references in the back,) although almost any good popular science book on evolutionary psychology or biological cognitive science should have a discussion and refernces to studies of heritability.

Re:If only... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491917)

Who is there, to grant or deny that permission?

Re:If only... (1)

C0LDFusion (541865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5493010)

Here's my idea: You have to go before a "Baby Tribunal" of three guys who've raised successful children themselves. Kids who've managed to have no criminal background and have gone on to good careers. The parents-to-be must present a case that they actually have something to contribute to society by procreation.

Just a basic outline, but I think it'd work out pretty nicely.

Genetic screening ... not modification (5, Informative)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490797)

The summary of the this Slashdot posting is misleading. It is absolutely clear from the Melbourne Age article that this is not genetic modification. For example, it says:

It is believed to be the first time in Australia that approval has been granted to use IVF in combination with genetic screening and tissue matching to create a "donor" child for a sick sibling.

Re:Genetic screening ... not modification (4, Insightful)

spotted_dolphin (595858) | more than 11 years ago | (#5493077)

I think it is the term 'Designer Baby' is somewhat misleading. It encompasses the selection and implatation of an embryo, with no potentially bad genes from the parents, of a population of them which have been fertilized by IVF.

Although the theory is there, I'm not sure if anyone has successfully 'fixed' bad genes in an embryo.

Re:Genetic screening ... not modification (1)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 11 years ago | (#5499611)

Although the theory is there, I'm not sure if anyone has successfully 'fixed' bad genes in an embryo.

I've not heard of anyone attempting this for human embryos. But I think it has been done for animals. Remember that "artist" who commissioned a glow-in-the-dark rabbit? (OK, this was adding a new gene rather than fixing a bad gene, but the techniques used would be the same.)

Re:Genetic screening ... not modification (1)

gene_tailor (601527) | more than 11 years ago | (#5501174)

No, no one has 'fixed' bad genes in an embryo yet (unless the Raelians did it and haven't told us yet -- just kidding). The targetting of genes into a specific chromosomal location in mammalian cells is just not there yet.... it's a major sticking point in getting any kind of gene therapy (embryonic or in an adult) out of s.f. and into reality.

Yeah, I got yer genetic screening right here... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5490840)

...it's called dating. I screened the genes of my future projeny when I asked my wife to marry me. She was screening for the genes of her children by saying yes to me and not to some other schmuck out there. Geez, you'd think that having children was rocket science or something.

Re:Yeah, I got yer genetic screening right here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5491454)

But the question on all our minds is: Who was the bigger failure at the screening process? The woman marrying a slashdot geek, or the geek marrying the kind of woman who would say yes to him?

Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490922)

Now I have to say that I don't like the idea of cloning and genetic enginering (of humans) in the first place. But I'm very focused on the needs and well being of children, so let me ask all of you a few questions. I'm obviously against this, BTW. I think it's cruel and, in fact, just plain EVIL to concieve a child for the purpose of saving someone else's life. That right there is treating the kid like cattle. It's a human being.
  1. What happens if this kid's cells don't cure the couple's first kid? That means that they brought a life into the world with the sole intent of curing someone else's life, and it didn't work. Wouldn't that make this kid a failure? How would you like to know that you were concieved to save someone's life and didn't? How would you like to know that you weren't concieved because your parrents wanted a second kid, but because they wanted their first kid to live? It's too bad that their kid is ill, but this is a terrible thing to do to a kid. It's not like they'll be able to hide it from him. It was bad enough when that couple tried to concieve a kid a few years ago for the same reason, but at least they didn't engineer the kid. If your parrents concieved you to save the life of your older sibling, doesn't that clearly imply that they love that other sibling more? What kind of psychological damage will all of this cause to this kid.
  2. What if this new kid has health problems. Will they have a 3rd kid to save its life? What's the difference, other than they may have caused this kid's problems, as opposed to it just being a chance of genetics.
  3. What if there is a miscarrige? Wouldn't you still get the cells needed if it was far enough along? Is this then a success or a failure? Someone was concieved so that someone could live, but that first person died and the second person still lived. What does that mean? Was the first person worthless? Why not just have an abortion partway through? Then how could one possibly argue that the kid who was aborted wasn't just a "sack of organs"? What kind of person tries to concieves a child knowing full well that they will kill it if they succede? Yes, I'm against abortion, but this is one of the reasons why.
  4. If someone kills the new kid before it can save the life of the first kid, is that double homicide? On the one hand, you've doomed the first kid. On the other hand, he's already dead, so can he be killed?
  5. May I remind you all of "Brave New World", "Gattaca", and such other works of fiction?
  6. Should we even save the first kids life in the first place? This one is a thought expirament, I'm not proposing this (I'd be dead in such a case). One can easily argue that medical technology has rendered evolution mute on our species, which is probably why the rates of just about everything bad (cancer, obiesity, diabetes, heart disease, asethma, allergies, etc.) have been rising over the last century. Should we be allowed to play god (genetic engineering) to help us play god better (by curing the first kid who should, purely by evolution, not survive)?
  7. If it's cord cells they're after, why not test the cells from every baby born in a hospital, and ask the parrents of any matching kids if they'll help out by allowing the use of the cord cells. Why even create a second kid?
  8. What does it teach their first kid that they concieve another just to save his life? Does it teach him that life is sacred? Or does it teach him that kids are more like a commodity, and that he can be replaced. Does this give his life more or less value?
That said, what do you make of this quote in the article?
"The couple's child is believed to have a terminal illness. Its only chance of survival is to receive a transfusion of umbilical cord blood from a perfectly matched sibling."
They don't even know if the kid has the illness and THEY ARE DOING ALL OF THIS? Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this part ALONE? How do they know that this is the only chance if they don't even know if this kid has this illness?

I realize that this post might seem kind of "troll"-y, but these are serious questions? Even if you are "pro-choice" (a misnomer, but that's another issue), would you agree with the abortion in #3? If you think I'm a troll, please reply to this and give me logical arguements why I'm wrong (I'll just assume the "You're an idiot because you suck" posts) instead of modding me down.

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (1)

VendingMenace (613279) | more than 11 years ago | (#5490959)

all great questions, here is another one... 9. What do you tell the kid when he gets older. "Honey, we have something to tell you, we had you so that you could save your older brother/sister." Yeah, a teenage kid is gonna react REAL well to this. Great issues raised bay MBcook. I guess what we have to ask ourselves is how much of another persons life do we really have a right to control? Anyways, just my thoughts...

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (3, Insightful)

ChadN (21033) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491323)

Huge numbers of kids are being born for no other reason than, "I got drunk and knocked up". Or, "I want a baby so that I can care for it like my parents didn't care for me." The concerns you raise are WAY down on my list of concerns regarding the *motivational* aspects of childbearing.

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492036)

Hmm.. I'll try to work around your obvious anti-abortion bias.
1. How do you know that the sole purpose of having this kid was to save their other kid? I think that's a bit of a stretch to make this so cut and dry. Even if it is, does it really matter? You seem to assume that the sole purpose of having the kid automatically translates into the value of the kid after its born. Is your value tied to your parents intent in having you? What about all the children that are conceived from "accidents"?

2. I'm not really sure what you're trying to argue here. The technique they're using wouldn't cause any health problems, it only prevents them.

3. I don't really understand this argument either. You seem to be stringing us along for a bit toward your goal suggesting that these people would just have an abortion after they harvested the fetal blood. This couple isn't going to have an abortion, so your "what if" scenario doesn't apply.

4. huh? While this is maybe an interesting legal question, I don't see how it applies to the ethics of this situation.

5. Making a reference to "scary book about genetics gone mad books" is a scare tactic, not an actual argument. No one is creating genetically enhanced super-men here, and no one is creating three different classes of people.

6. We've been playing god by saving peoples lives who shouldn't due to evolution ever since we figured out how to bandage a wound. Are you suggesting we not treat anyone so that the people with the "wrong" genes will die? To use your argument, that sounds pretty close to the theme of Gattaca or Brave New World to me.

7. Maybe this is an alternate treatment, I really don't know. Even if it is, the existance of an alternate treatment isn't an argument that what they're doing is wrong.

8. What does it teach him? Maybe that his parents will do anything to save him? That his parents value life? Sorry, the answers to this question seem pretty open ended to me. It all depends on what his parents teach him, which is really no different than anyone else.

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (5, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492074)

Should we even save the first kids life in the first place? This one is a thought expirament, I'm not proposing this (I'd be dead in such a case). One can easily argue that medical technology has rendered evolution mute on our species, which is probably why the rates of just about everything bad (cancer, obiesity, diabetes, heart disease, asethma, allergies, etc.) have been rising over the last century. Should we be allowed to play god (genetic engineering) to help us play god better (by curing the first kid who should, purely by evolution, not survive)?
Evolution does not deserve our reverence. A conscious person's desire is far more important than blind nature's thoughtless process.

And if the application of this desire results in a naturally "less fit" genotype, then so be it. A life (I'm talking about the parents' lives here, not the child's) either has no purpose at all, or one of its own choosing. If people choose (by default) the same purpose as mother nature (to mindlessly optimize the fitness function), that would be a pretty disappointing waste of brains, IMHO.

Ah, but regarding the child's purpose... What will this kid think when he learns of his "purpose?" Well, as soon as he's old enough to think, then he'll already have new purpose all on his own. His parents' original motives become irrelevant. I just hope he knows this.

I think it's cruel and, in fact, just plain EVIL to concieve a child for the purpose of saving someone else's life. That right there is treating the kid like cattle. It's a human being.
By that reasoning, is there ever any justification for choosing to conceive a child? Would not any concious decision to create life, be a form of objectifying that life?

I think treating people like cattle is horrible too, but I have no problems with abortion or genetic hacking. I reconcile this by using a perhaps (?) nonconventional definition for "people." Having human DNA isn't enough to quality (nor is it even a strict requirement, though I've never met a person who didn't have it). What matters, what gives (or doesn't give) a being the value I assign to a person, isn't what kind of meat they're made out of. What matters is how they act. Goo inside a test tube, even if it is a potential person, ain't one yet.

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (4, Insightful)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 11 years ago | (#5493285)

1. You seem to think that this kid will have only one purpose in life, but in fact, he/she will have two: to save a sibling's life AND to live. If anything, this child has more purpose going for it than the thousands of children born every day because approximately nine months earlier their parents decided to chance it and not use contraception. This child cannot be a failure; even if its cord blood does not cure its sibling, it will still be a human child.

2. This is wildly unrealistic- that the parents would possess alleles for two different genetic ailments that can only be cured by sibling cord blood is extremely improbable. Yet, if it were to occur, and embryos could then be selected that possessed neither ailment (if any existed), and the funds for another round of IVF were available, then I see no reason to deny them the chance. If the couple is really that desperate, and you deny them IVF, it's likely that they might attempt to conceive a child "the old-fashioned way," taking the risk it would bear one or both disorders.

3. Looking at it in pragmatic (and harsh)terms first of all, why would you abort a fetus that cost so much money to conceive? Really, if you wanted to do this, you would not implant the embryo at all- you would simply convert it into a line of stem cells.
4. Huh? First off, the second kid does not even need to be alive to save its sibling's life- you said so yourself in #3. Second, how is the first kid "already dead?" If that were the case, everyone dying of a terminal illness would be legally dead.

5. Look, these parents aren't creating the ubermensch, or an Alpha. To call this a "designer baby" is inaccurate- this child would not be genetically modified in any way- all of its genes will come from its parents, who received them from their parents. A chance exists that the parents could "naturally" produce a child without this genetic defect- but not a very good one. Chance favors the prepared mind, and also the parents who were able to select an embryo with IVF.

6. Why must we kowtow to evolution? Rejecting the idea that producing children that will slowly and agonizingly die from an inherited disease is heaven working in mysterious ways and replacing it with the idea that we must let natural selection discard harmful alleles from the gene pool is merely replacing one tyranny with another. Fsck, at least God has a grand plan, or so I'm told. The examples you give of diseases that tie into our species' supposed genetic fitness decline are rather interesting- I'd say increases in the first four are much more the result of lifestyle choices than genetics (well, not if you mean Type I diabetes, I suppose) As far as asthma, I'd say that has to do more with pollution than genes. Allergies are rather interesting though- I'd suspect that in addition to environmental factors (including the pollution again), at least a small portion of that might be due to the spreading and interbreeding of long isolated groups of humans- thus spreading around genes for hypersensitivities. Anyway, the couple with a child with sickle-cell anemia raises an interesting point- this is the textbook case of a genetic disease that evolution built. Sickle-cell anemia has been known for thousands of years, and until recent advances (such as this cord blood therapy, for instance) was generally lethal at a relatively young age. However, it's stayed around mostly because it is a recessive disorder, and more importantly, the heterozygote (one copy of the normal "wild type" dominant gene and one defective sickle-cell recessive copy) has a resistance to infection by malaria. If this child survives, and then lives to procreate, it is likely that this heterozygote advantage will be conferred on them- that doesn't sound like enfeebling the human race to me.

7. Making this one shorter, I'm sure that's already been tried- many hospitals have set up cord blood donation programs- but a blood relation- particularly a sibling- stands an excellent chance of being a precise match.

8. Now, suppose this child were old enough to understand the present situation- what do you think the child would want? If the parents are willing to do all of this to save their child's life, it would seem that they hold that child to be rather precious. You can be cynical and claim that if the older child dies, he is merely being "replaced," but then the same is true for every other couple who wishes to conceive again after the death of a child. Surely they aren't being selfish?

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (1)

onion_breath (453270) | more than 11 years ago | (#5495159)

a small portion of that [allergies] might be due to the spreading and interbreeding of long isolated groups of humans- thus spreading around genes for hypersensitivities.

Sorry, but I must disagree with you here. My mother is half Spanish, half Italian (who is actually from Italy, and moved to Canada after her birth) and my father is half Scottish half we-don't-know (who's family moved to Canada before his birth). I think my genetic makeup is rather messy (or diverse... half full or half empty right). However, I have extreme hayfever, along with other reactions to insect bites. Oddly enough, neither parent has a sensitivy ... go figure. From personal experience, I'd guess that your first hypothesis (pollution of environment) is spot on! Achoo!

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (1)

ruheling (570438) | more than 11 years ago | (#5494849)

"The couple's child is believed to have a terminal illness. Its only chance of survival is to receive a transfusion of umbilical cord blood from a perfectly matched sibling."

Unfortunately, foresight isn't 20/20. One can't be 100% certain that a disease is terminal until it is, in fact, terminal.

Re:Won't SONEONE Please Think of the Children (1)

gene_tailor (601527) | more than 11 years ago | (#5501556)

> Now I have to say that I don't like the idea of cloning and genetic enginering (of humans) in the first place.

Neither of those things is being discussed in this case.

>I'm very focused on the needs and well being of children

OK, then, why are you spending 100's of words arguing against giving a child the treatment most likely to cure her/him of a terminal illness? Hello? Given the logic failures in your first two sentences, I'm not going to waste my time replying to the rest.

This one is a no-brainer (4, Insightful)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491078)

They are going to raise a new perfectly healthy baby, for the purpose of donating the umbilical cord blood to their sick child in order to save his life. So what if they're using IVF to screen out genetically defective embryos? The sole effect of this treatment, when allowed to go ahead, if a benefit to all parties concerned and does harm to no one. (For those of you who believe that the destruction of embryos is immoral because the embryos are people, all I have to say is that one mindless ball of flesh is not any closer to personhood than any other, because the sole characteristic that makes one a person or makes one capable of having a "soul" (if such things exist) is having a mind capable of thought and emotion, which is obviously not a characteristic of anything that has not yet developed any sort of nervous system) But I digress.

The whole slippery slope argument about "Designer Babies" is completely bunk because sliding "down" that slope would be nothing but benefit to mankind. The world would, unquestionably, be a better place if genetically-based diseases were eradicated and people had more of a genetic predisposition to be healthy, fit, and intelligent. So what if the benefit only applies to those who can afford it; the same can be said of ALL expensive medical treatments, and yet we don't see anyone advocating banning chemotherapy for that reason.

One of the other arguments against so-called "Designer Babies" is that genetic screening will, in many cases, be applied very narrowly (for example, to enhance physical attractiveness) neglecting more important things and actually making the person-to-be less healthy overall. So, hypothetically, the technology could be misused in harmful ways. Big deal. Antibiotics have been and are still being misused resulting in the creation of dangerous antibiotic-resistant diseases that are taking a great toll in some areas, such as Russia's problem with MDR Tuberculosis. Nevertheless, that has never been a good reason to ban antibiotics altogether, and this situation is hardly any different. The industry could be regulated to avoid abuses and malpractice, the same way other medical procedures and prescription drugs are handled today. The difference between this and other medical resources that are legal but regulated is grossly insufficient to warrant the double standard of banning genetic screening/improvement altogether.
The third objection to so-called "Designer Babies" is an (IMO irrational) fear, spawned from science fiction, of creating a "super race" of genetically engineered humans, raising the standards for everyone and harming those whose parents couldn't afford the genetic improvement technology. Let me ask you, how is that sort of economic divide any different from the current situation? Rich people can afford to send their students to better schools, and provide them with a more advantageous upbringing in general. This results in a situation where the children of middle class and rich parents have more of a chance to succeed than the children of poor parents, regardless of their innate potential. Does this mean that all private/rich-public schools should be disbanded, and everyone should be condemned to a crappy education and a disadvantaged upbringing? Heck no. That would certainly satisfy the resentment of the poor, without really helping them, but it would harm everyone else. That is analogous to the issue at hand: Banning genetic screening/improvement would simply hold back part of society from improving themselves, without providing and concrete benefit except satisfying paranoia and class envy. Such a ban would do nothing to serve the common good.

To quote James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA's structure, "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."

Re:This one is a no-brainer (1)

Flamerule (467257) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491403)

Dude, I just want to salute your post. Sometimes one of the best things about /. is finding like-minded people who share one's opinion on a topic. Like reading a thread on evolution and finding that the almost all of the creationist lunatics have been modded below one's threshold, so you don't even have to see them.

I agree with you 100%. On with genetic design; Gattaca [imdb.com] , here we come!

Re:This one is a no-brainer (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492333)

Another strong argument in support of this is that genetics does not determine everything about a person. It is just not mathmatically possible. You can be genetically predisposed to be athletic or intelligent, but unless you actually do the work, you won't be. DNA does not magically create knowledge or grow muscles where there is no reason to have them. A lot of people don't understand that that's what "genetically predisposed" means. It doesn't mean that you put in some code and out comes an Albert Einstein who can run a four minute mile, but it can make the work easier, and the plateaus higher.

I'm confused, please reply (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491231)

I take it they have an existing child with a genetic disorder.

Are they screening for a genetically compatible match to the existing child, to act as a blood donor, or are they just trying to have a healthy baby? What the deal with the umbilical cord?

Re:I'm confused, please reply (1)

gene_tailor (601527) | more than 11 years ago | (#5501254)

1. Yes. 2. Yes, they want the new child to be a matched donor for the sick child (as well as to be healthy itself). 3. Umbilical ord blood is a great source of donor stem cells.

Name the baby contest! (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 11 years ago | (#5491371)

How about Eugenia? (or Eugene, depending)

Number Two?

Far from the first one (4, Informative)

upper (373) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492081)

This has been going on for several years in the US. The first baby selected this way -- at least for Fanconi anemia -- was born in August or Sept 2000. I believe there have been several dozen such selected-sibling transplants since. More info here [hsg.org] , here [umass.edu] , and here [google.com] .

And, as others have noted, calling this a "designer baby" is very misleading. The embryos are created by letting normal sperm and egg cells do their normal thing, only in glassware, and the embryos aren't modified afterwards. The lab work is to decide which embryos would be implanted, so that the resulting child (1) won't have Fanconi anemia, and (2) can be a marrow donor for the sick older sibling. (1) is pretty common now for parents who carry serious genetic diseases and know it.

Re:Far from the first one (2, Informative)

quintessent (197518) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492622)

I read about a similar case in the UK about a month ago. There, the country's high court upheld a ruling that stopped the couple from using genetic selection to make a child capable of giving another child a bone marrow transplant.

Re:Far from the first one (1)

gene_tailor (601527) | more than 11 years ago | (#5501545)

There a couple cases like this in the UK news recently. Here are some links from the BBC: first [bbc.co.uk] , second [bbc.co.uk] , third [bbc.co.uk] . The middle article says the UK authorities' (HFEA) official position is "while it was acceptable to test and select embryos to prevent the birth of a baby with a genetic disease, it was not ethically acceptable to select them in order to help another child." The parents in one case have gotten IVF in the US, and the others have vowed to "go abroad" for IVF... I guess now they choose to go to Australia as well as the US.

Re:Far from the first one (1)

gene_tailor (601527) | more than 11 years ago | (#5501297)

> This has been going on for several years in the US.

Yes, this is true. Thanks for the links on this. I would point out one more thing, in case it's not totally clear, which is that the use of pre-implantation genetic selection is actually an improved way to get a donor. Desperate parents, unable to find an unrelated donor, have been having new babies as potential matched donors for their sick older kids for at least a decade, but only in the past few years has it become possible to pre-screen to insure that the baby they have will be a match.

Completely within their rights (2, Interesting)

janap (451953) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492146)

Screening for genetic disorder is already in place and standard practice in civilised societies. It is common knowledge that the possibility of having a child born with Down's syndrome increases with the age of the mother. Pregnant women over the age of 35 are informed of the increased risk and offered a test. Free of charge. This goes for most western European countries.

Think of this as proper exploitation of available technology and information. No-one is harmed in this specific case, and the parents' concern for their first child speaks well of their ability to love and cherish their coming child, however much screened and whatever the outcome of this. In short, this is a happy situation.

Evolutionary Stagnation (2, Interesting)

SilentDissonance (516202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5492993)

Whenever this topic comes up, I really can't help but think I may never have been born had this been a reality when I was conceived. I believe that one of the defining things that shapes our personalities as sentient creatures is the various maladies we have.

I don't think this is meddling in the work of a God, either. I believe this goes against the very processes of evolution. If we're picking the defining factors for what is good, rather than the environment we exist in, we will stagnate on the evolutionary ladder. Species that can't adapt to their environment tend to fail rather quickly.

Of course, the other birth that may never have taken place is your own.

--Coda from the deleted scenes of Gattaca [imdb.com]

Re:Evolutionary Stagnation (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5494197)

If we're picking the defining factors for what is good, rather than the environment we exist in, we will stagnate on the evolutionary ladder.
No, we just define the selection criteria to conform to our values, instead of nature's. We make the ladder climb to where we want it to, instead of the arbitrary direction in which it formerly led. That is glorious! [gober.net]

Inaccurate sensationalist media (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5494954)

Designer Baby Given Go-ahead

from the organlegging dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A couple in the Australian city of Melbourne has been given the legal go ahead to breed a genetically modified ... 'designer' baby to cure their terminally ill child."

Most of the above language has one target: evoking an emotional response in the reader that was apparently felt by the poster/submitter. Even worse, the above characterization is highly inaccurate with regard to the actual article.

For shame.

Genetic Modification = Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5500090)

Oh man. I totally look forward to the day that genetic defects are gone. The day that the report comes out that the average intelligence of the human race has risen 10%. That disease resistant people have lowered the cost of health care.

Consider as a counter to the science fiction "genetics scare" story the "Malign AI's take over the world" story. Why do AI's take over the world? Because they can make a new generation of themselves better than the last one.

THIS IS THE ONLY WAY FOR US TO BEAT THEM, PEOPLE!

Dogs and Cats living together (1)

Geekbot (641878) | more than 11 years ago | (#5516932)

What the hell, a baby is not a hammer, a screwdriver, some sort of tool.
"Mommy, why was I born."
"Well, you were created and allowed to live to term in order to save Billy's life. Lucky for you you happened to be the most compatible candidate, or off to the garbage disposal with the rest of the embryo's."

Not only, "how could this not screw up both of these kids" but also do you think we could debase human life any further? Maybe they could grow a couple ears on the kids back for "just in case" scenarios.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?