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The New Eugenics

Posted by MDViews on September 16, 2009

In the UK, a couple has a new baby girl without the high risk gene mutation for breast and ovarian cancer, cancers that have afflicted females in her father’s family for three generations. Paul Serhal, the fertility expert who treated the couple, said, “The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter.”

And it was easy. After fertilizing bunches of eggs in a dish, he let them grow to the blastocyst stage, removed one cell, tested it for the gene mutation, found the perfect one, implanted it and let it grow. Now mom and dad have a brand-spanking-new baby girl, practically perfect in every way.

And her brothers and sisters who didn’t pass embryo muster? Well, let’s just say their three days of life were rudely interrupted. But, there was no blood, no guts and no annoying trips to the abortion clinic. The doctor probably just rinsed them down the sink. Easy.

I’ve wondered what one would have to believe to be an ethical Petri-dish “rinser-outer?” What would define the ethics of a person willing select the perfect embryo and discard the others?

I surmise one would have to believe in the absurdity of life and an absent or irrelevant God. One would have to deny a final accounting before a holy judge, acknowledge we are all we have and insist existential relativism defines life. One would have to hold that life has no value except the value placed on it by whoever has the money or power to use it or control it. One would have to believe in the value of genetically improving the human race.

Now, the parents of this designer child placed a value on her, so here she is. But no value on her siblings, so here they are not. And her doctor placed a value on a genetically superior child. (The money and fame probably didn’t hurt, either.)

Make no mistake; breast cancer is an expensive, terrible disease. Chemo, radiation, lost work, lost productivity, end-of-life care, hospice, ICU time—they all cost money. Patients with breast cancer face pain, despair and possible early death. So you may think reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer a valid argument for this type of genetic selection (and genetic de-selection).

But where does that argument take us? Do a little projection with me, if you would.

Maybe, just maybe, the government, in order to save money on health care, could strongly recommend (or even require?) such prenatal genetic diagnosis (PGD) for other families with such a cancer history. Maybe the government could keep a record—a gene record—on everyone; so those with known genetic “defects” could receive counseling before conceiving so appropriate prenatal testing could be done. Maybe for those who conceived without PGD, the government could recommend (or require?) prenatal diagnosis and abortion if the baby was found to be carrying one of these less-than-desirable genes. We (the government) wouldn’t want to “inflict” some poor soul with a less-than-perfect genetic make-up, would we?

Oh, what a wonderful world it would be! No people with disabilities clogging up the system—no cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, spina bifida, or early-onset breast cancer—none of the up to 6,000 known adverse gene mutations! Why, just think. When they come up with the gene for those with an IQ less than, say 90, only “smart” people could be allowed to be born! And, you know, if your political party were in power, your party could decide what “inferior” meant. Why, it could include races, or religions, or height or weight. The sky is the limit!

Those chuckles you hear in the background are the spirits of Margaret Sanger, Adolf Hitler and all the other eugenicists from ages past quietly laughing as their ideas re-surface, the ideas of the perfect race and elimination of the less-than-perfect from among us. With PGD and prenatal diagnosis clinics, the techniques are not the same (yet), but the concept is the same.

As the Jewish people know first-hand, eugenics may start small, but can end in the unimaginable deaths.

And that is why we must defend life—human life—from conception to natural death, as God intended.

3 Responses to “The New Eugenics”

  1. Dan Smith said

    My daughter has cystic fibrosis, and to think that I put any less value on her because of her disease than these parents in England did their daughter is ludicrous. This makes me sad, but I know it’s how things will have to go. It is a sad example of what people are willing to attempt to make their lives easier.

  2. Peggy Humm said

    Please keep me posted- I am trying to establish a Perinatal Hospice in a University Medical Center setting. Good verbal support, but no funding.

  3. rachelofthecornfields said

    Really interesting article here–and a wonderful one in the 9/26 World Mag. Thank you for sharing.

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