DESIGNER BABY: AN ETHICAL DILEMMA

DESIGNER BABY: AN ETHICAL DILEMMA

Introduction

‘Designer baby’, many of us must not even have heard of this term. But yes, it is also a possibility in today?s world, where technological advancement is on highest pace. Before the invention of IVF technology, designer baby was just a science fiction concept. But today, it is been 40 years since the first test tube baby and we are here with the real concept of designer baby becoming true. The term designer baby has even taken official entry in Oxford English Dictionary.

The advent of designer baby has also led to a debate that whether it should be allowed or not; as there are ethical concerns revolving this concept.

Through this Article an effort is made to clear the ambiguities pertaining to the concept of designer baby and discuss its benefits, risks and the ethical dilemma.

Designer Baby? What is it?

The term ‘designer baby’ is difficult to define and its meaning is still not clear. It can be defined as influencing the quality of a child which is not yet born.

It may be put into the words that a baby who is genetically engineered in-vitro in order to be originated with some specific traits, to make the baby immortal or more intellect than others. It is the process of genetic modification where certain genetics are transferred, as per the wish, through the technology. Basically, the genetic imperfections are eliminated from the fetus and making child superior to other children.

The Embryo Project Encyclopedia has defined the term, ‘designer babies’ as genetically engineered in-vitro for specially selected characteristics, ranging from lowered risk of certain diseases to gender selection.

This does not only work in the field of eliminating malformations or diseases before the birth of child. The area covered by it involves much more than health care; such as changing the nature and genetics, for the better of the child which may also extend to gender selection of child.

Once in 1996, a family wanted a baby girl after having two sons, so their embryos were selected to make sure that they have a baby girl.

Moreover, the typical the 1st designer baby is considered to be born on 29th August, 2000 named Adam Nash, famously known as savior sibling. Adam Nash’s parents conceived him with the purpose of making him donate blood (bone marrow) to his sister who was born with Fanconi Anaemia and also so that Adam is born free of any disease. His parents used the in-vitro fertilization process in order to conceive him.

Benefits and Risks

Everything has its own positive and negative points, so does the concept of designer baby has. There are many benefits of designer baby, with these benefits there also come some risks also.

The benefits associated with the origination of designer babies are numerous.

  • Increased Life Expectancy – With genetic modification of the baby, life expectancy of the baby is by itself increased as all the defective genes or the genes causing diseases etc. are eliminated. As a result of which the child will grow healthy which will automatically increase the life of child.

  • Reduces Chance of Genetic Disorder – There are some genetic disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome etc. chances will be less if a baby is born through genetic modification.

  • Reduces Chance of Inherited Diseases – There are various cases when the diseases by which the parents suffer are transferred to child by genes. Through this process the genes carrying disease can be removed from the DNA of child.

  • Positive Impact on Baby – Due to all this above benefits, there is an overall positive impact on the baby. The traits, looks, major behavior, intellect can certainly be increased or changed in the way as the parents like.

Apart from these above noted benefits, there are various risks and cons revolving this concept.

  • Violation of Unborn’s Rights – With this process the traits, life and mind of the unborn are changed. There is an alteration in physical and non-physical well being of the child, without the consent of the child which is obviously cannot be ascertained or even without considering the factor that would baby also want these changes to happen?

  • High Chances of Error – It is not disputed that this process is not an error free process. The technology of making designer babies is still not fully developed and is at the experimental stage. In case, there is any error in carrying out its procedure, it can result in unwanted outcomes such as miscarriage, malformations in child, new form of diseases in child, etc.

  • Create Gap in Society – In the long run, there will be a gap in the society, as it would be divided in the groups of individual born naturally and individuals born through genetic modification. Those born through genetic modification will be having an edge over other individuals in the society by the virtue of their intelligence, traits, skills, etc. This may result in racism and filthy environment in the society.

  • Expensive Procedure – The procedure of designer babies is very expensive and not affordable to all. This would certainly give rise to differences between the designer babies and the normal babies.

  • Can become a Status Symbol – As we have discussed above that the procedure of designing babies is expensive and not affordable by all makes it capable enough of becoming status symbol for rich people, such as an I Phone, its expensive, people flaunt it for the purpose of showing their financial status and as today?s time it have became a status symbol.

Legal Position in India

In India, there is no specific law explicitly dealing with the technology of designer babies. However, the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), the organization of government, have published the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research on Human Participants which prohibits ‘eugenic genetic engineering for changing/selecting/altering genetic characteristics and creating so called designer babies?’

In addition to this, the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research 2017 have also been issued by ICMR, the Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of Science & Technology which provides guidelines for human gene editing, modification, etc. Clause 8.3 of the guidelines provides for Prohibited Areas of Research wherein Research involving implantation of human embryos (generated by any means) after in-vitro manipulation, at any stage of development, into uterus in humans or primates is also strictly prohibited.

Therefore, any research that may lead to creation of designer babies is prohibited by non-mandatory guidelines in India.

Ethical Dilemma

Apart from all the benefits and risks, there are some concerns attached to the concept which questions the ethics and morals of the society. Reproductive system is considered as one of the purest function of human life, and by the use of this concept an intrusion is made even in these aspects of life, which should ideally be left untouched.

The other concern revolving this concept comes from the religion. Religion tells us that a child is a creation of God; the genetic modification is in a way playing with the God’s creation. Basically, the religious person would never agree with the concept of Designer Baby where the genetics of child are engineered.

More concerns regarding this process are pertaining to population. The concept of Designer Baby may increase the life span of the child and also eliminate the risk of diseases, all of which will gradually increase the population of world and leave the situation out of control.

Other thing that comes into picture is that as we have already discussed in the risks associated with the procedure of Designer baby is not 100% risk free. There is always a chance that even if the procedure is performed with full efficiency, it may lead to some abnormalities in genetics of the child to be born such as any serious disease, malformations, etc. which were not existing before. And if so happens, it would be an extreme injustice and will leave the child helpless for the whole of his/her life.

Many countries such as India, the UK and China are not in support in concept of designer baby and some have also made it illegal.

Conclusion

It can be concluded on the basis of the aforementioned research that the concept of designer baby is indeed a very beneficial procedure, only if it is performed with good and genuine purposes. But this concept is such that it can anytime be mishandled. It can be both, a boon and a bane to the world. All depends upon how humans use this concept and with what intentions.

There are various questions and dilemmas existing such as ‘Will children simply become an accessory to complement their parents’ sense of style?These questions can only be answered with time and as of now; the concept can bring fortune and can become a curse too.

References

  • How Are Designer Babies Made And What Are Its Pros And Cons? March 28, 2019, by Debolina Raja.
  • Exploring the Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering, April 16, 2018, By Josy O’Donnel.
  • Designer Babies: a benefit or a threat? September 12, 2016, by Ptrack.
  • Designer Babies: boon or bane? by Hanashu Durganaudu.
  • Ethics of Designer Babies, March 31, 2011, by Sarah Ly.
  • Designer babies: an ethical horror waiting to happen? January 8, 2017, by Philip Ball.
  • Are we ready of Babies? May, 2019, By Nishith Desai Associates.

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