Couples May Get Chance to Design the “Ideal” Baby

LONDON — Research is being done to “improve” the eugenic capability of in vitro fertilization, but most countries are hesitant to allow its wide application. However, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has proposed to allow parents to start choosing the genetic characteristics of their IVF children before implantation. As part of the HFEA's recently launched “consultation” on IVF procedures, the fertility authority is considering allowing couples to select the particular ova and sperm used to create embryos according to particular desired traits. With improvements in the technology, it may become possible to select specific genetic characteristics such as eye and hair color and height. The practice of negative eugenics is already widespread with embryos being “screened” by a variety of procedures collectively referred to as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). But this may be a first for a national regulatory body of ethics “experts” to allow the creation of made-to-order “perfect” children.

Pro-life activists have been warning for some time that the ethical and legal disaster created by the new reproductive technologies would come down to outright designer babies. Gillian Long, Research Director of Campaign Life Coalition, one of the first pro-life groups to sound the alarm on the dangers of IVF, told, “Children are seen as a luxury commodity with IVF. There is no reason to think that a customer special-ordering such an expensive item from a boutique would not want to have it in the right color, or size, to fit their preferences.”

Most reputable embryologists say that selecting for characteristics such as intelligence would take more than merely picking the right sperm. But the decision by one of the world's leading fertility authorities to allow the practice in principle, will certainly be seen as an open door.

Said Long, “Geneticists tell us that the human genome is far more complex than anyone suspected and to select for something as complex as intelligence is a long way off. But when the bioethicists say that it is OK to do it, especially with cloning allowed in the UK, we're on our way to creating a whole new race according to pre-conceived notions of what's ‘perfect.’ It's the green light to make the attempt, even if they can't do it now.”

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