14 thoughts on “New York Times Article on Genetic Testing

  1. “The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, whose members provide preimplantation diagnosis, says it is “ethically justified” to prevent serious adult diseases for which “no safe, effective interventions are available.” The method is “ethically allowed” for conditions “of lesser severity” or for which the gene increases risk but does not guarantee a disease.”

    On the argument for and against IVF (as related to this article) I think it is extremely interesting that both arguments can be firmly rooted in morality. On one hand, is it immoral to knowingly pass on a severe genetic disorder to a child or is it immoral to choose to discard an embryo and effectively “choose” which embryo can have the opportunity for life? The article does a brief explanation of both sides, but under the statement above I find it hard to understand where the line is drawn. While I completely agree with the argument that IVF provides an opportunity to avoid life altering genetic diseases, who decides how much control the parents have? How can you avoid parents not choosing a child based on sex when these opportunities are available? How can you institutionalize a set of rules to avoid choosing sex, when all of the technology is available?
    As the article tells the heart-wrenching story of this particular family, it is hard to deny that there are incredible benefits to IVF but it doesn’t stress enough the question of control. More and more parents are choosing IVF strictly to decide the sex of the baby. Is this truly all that different from genetic enhancement – individually picking and choosing vital traits in a potential child? And if this is true can we place such a negative connotation on genetic enhancement, when in truth some form of this practice is rapidly increasing?

  2. The process of Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is also used in treating many life threatening genetic diseases. For example, if a child is diagnosed with a genetic mutation and thus a genetic disease, his mutation can be corrected by infusing him with healthy stem cells from either bone marrow or blood in an umbilical cord. However, the child would have the best shot at living a full life if the donated cells came from a sibling who had a genetically matched immune system. The procedure could take numerous fertilized embryos to produce a baby with the right genetic makeup. But only one match can save the child’s life the rest of the embryos are discarded. This procedure has several criticisms on the grounds of “need to create” and dispose of those not needed. In regards to the article in the New York Times, my main concern is that by using the PGD technique, we are going overboard with the treatment options, especially for diseases like GSS that may or may not develop in adulthood. Do we really consider an embryo left over trash? This is the same embryo that, if allowed to grow, ends up in a full grown unique individual. Are we saying that the life of this individual has no value?

  3. I have very mixed emotions about this article.
    On the one hand, I feel that the Kalinsky’s use of in vitro fertilization and genetic testing to guarantee that their children could live a life free from GSS disease was both an “acceptable” use of the procedures and an action that can find roots in the foundational moral concept of beneficence. Undergoing these specific procedures no doubt was a “good deed” bestowed upon her future children. In this regards, I found this article swaying me in the direction of “hey, maybe this stuff isn’t so bad”.
    On another hand, I have some serious issues with the comments made by two bioethicists quoted in the article. The first quote was by Janet Malek. She said:

    “…people who carry a gene like GSS have a moral duty to use preimplantation diagnosis — if they can afford it — to spare the next generation.”

    If they can afford it?? People only have a moral duty to do something IF they can monetarily afford to? If preimplantation diagnosis is a moral duty as Malek says it is for people with known diseases, then society has a moral duty to perform the procedure regardless of whether or not someone can afford it. It blows my mind that a bioethicist would instill a monetary condition on morality.
    My second issue with a quote is that by David Wasserman, a consultant to the department of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. He says:

    “there is no obligation to use it (preimplantation diagnosis) for diseases that do not start until adulthood. Eliminating embryos with such genes is essentially saying someone like Ms. Kalinsky should never have been born”

    Here he distinguishes using these tests for diseases that begin at birth and ones that develop later in life. He feels that there is no need to eliminate embryos with diseases such as GSS because the person would only be affected in adulthood and would result in the loss of “someone like Ms. Kalinsky” and that would be silly because she’s a perfectly fine human being. In this regard there is absolutely no difference in eliminating an embryo with a disease that would affect the person as a child or as an adult. Eliminating an embryo because it has the gene for downs syndrome is essentially saying that person should never have been born. And that’s unacceptable.

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