Should life create science or science create life? Either way, humans must decide when and where the line in the sand will be drawn when it comes to reproductive technology.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) became a successful means of reproduction in 1978. Since then, it has become a feasible, although not necessarily affordable, method of pregnancy for people that have certain infertility problems or desire multiple births. IVF involves controlling and stimulating the ovulation process. The resulting eggs are then removed from the ovaries. The eggs will be fertilized in a Petri-dish or test tube. Once the egg is fertilized, it becomes a zygote, and it can then be transferred to the uterus for a pregnancy.
Reproductive Technology: How Far Is Too Far?
Opponents of IVF object to the unused zygotes being destroyed. They also object to the interference with the procreative purpose of marriage, donor eggs being used in postmenopausal women, and gender selection capabilities. Still, IVF is far from the hot button topic that abortion is. But, it has recently been thrust back into the headlines since the birth of eight babies using the IVF process. Nadya Suleman’s case is a prime example of the “how far is too far” question.
As if IVF isn’t under enough scrutiny thanks to Nadya’s octuplets, now a few IVF clinics are considering using preimplantation genetic diagnosis to selectively choose physical traits. This procedure would allow a woman to select a babies hair color, skin tone, and eye color prior to the zygote being implanted.
Identification Of Genetic Disorders Before The Zygote Is Implanted
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a biopsy technique that was first successfully used in 1988. It is used in IVF to identify genetic defects in the created embryos such as: sex-linked disorders, single gene defects, and chromosomal disorders. Specific diseases like: Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, Huntington disease, X-linked dystrophies, mitochondrial disease, etc.. can all identified. In other words, if the parent(s) have a known genetic abnormality in their family, embryo testing can show if the embryo also carries the genetic abnormality. Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) are biopsy techniques used to screen for aneuploidy by determining the chromosomal constitution of embryos. Down syndrome can be identified with PGS. PGD and PGS mean that only the unaffected and healthy embryos are transferred to the uterus.
The place of PGD and PGS in reproductive medicine and society has been controversial since the start. But, using it for such trivial selective desires such as eye color, skin complexion, hair color, etc.. is about to explode the issue.
I am the mother of a handicapped child that can not walk, talk, or even hold her own head up. She has been diagnosed with possible mitochondrial disease. Since the doctors can not isolate a specific mitochondrial defect using muscle biopsy, geneticists can not tell me if my potential future children would have a genetic disease. So, I am conflicted about the original usage of PGD and PGS. On one hand, it would allow me to have another child free from the suffering Kaitlynn has endured. On the other hand, I believe life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg, and my conscious would not allow me to discard a formed genetically abnormal zygote. But, one thing I am sure about….discarding zygotes because they are not the preferred sex, eye color, hair color, skin complexion, etc.. is a gross misuse of science.
What Do You Think?
Where do we draw that ethical, socially acceptable, legal, and moral line in the sand- postmenopausal pregnancy; weed out genetic diseases; predetermine hair color, eye color and skin complexion; the selection of embryos for donor bone marrow to a family member; and/or gender selection?