Ethical views behind genetic testing of embryos

Genetic testing can do wonders to help people understand what diseases and problems they may develop over the course of their lives, but applying this practice to embryos in their mother’s womb raises ethical questions among many groups.

Your genetic code is essentially a sequence of proteins that make up your unique DNA. By looking at your DNA, scientists can do a number of things, including confirming who your parents are, what color eyes you have, and what diseases you have a disposition to.

While many people agree there are plenty of health benefits to being able to do this genetic testing on humans, there is a lot of contention whether it is ethical to perform this procedure to an unborn embryo.

This article from The New York Times shows the situation of Amanda Kalinsky, a woman who carries the gene for Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease. GSS is a degenerative neurological disease that leads to a slow and often painful death.

When Kalinsky found this out, she thought she would never have children, in fear of passing the disease to them. But advancements that include a process of in vitro fertilization and testing the possible embryos for the disease changed this. Doctors look at the genetic codes of the embryos and only implant the ones that don’t have the code for the disease (This article does a good job explaining this process.)

Researchers are unsure if the child won’t ever develop the disease as they age, but most agree this is  very unlikely to happen.

Although this process is great in saving our future children from having to suffer from deadly diseases in their life, many people think this process may be misused and could lead to coming generations being selectively born.

For example, a couple looking to have children may use this to have a child with blue eyes who will be taller and disease-free and discard the other embryos altogether. This idea is known as ‘designer babies.’

After looking at the website for the National Human Genome Research Institute, I saw it seems there aren’t many regulations in the US put in place for these procedures. If regulations aren’t put in place, there is a higher possibility of people misusing this procedure.

Overall, I think this embryo genetic testing can be beneficial in preventing  can be dangerous disease, but there are plenty of ethical, class, legal, societal and religious problems that should be looked at before it can be used more commonly.


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