If you are going to have a child, but you are unsure if your baby will have the diseases that have been passed down your family line for generations, all you can do is wait. This is a scenario that many parents are forced to go through. However, scientists have developed what are called “designer babies” which reduce the chances of a child inheriting diseases. Scientists are able to create children outside of the female’s body to accomplish this. Due to what the process entails, it has its supporters and its opposers. There are different groups who do not advocate this idea. People affiliated with religion, such as members of the Roman Catholic Church, strongly dislike the creation of designer babies, whereas many scientists and parents support the process. Although some organizations, like the Roman Catholics, disagree with this idea because they deem designer babies as unnecessary, unethical and risky, designer babies are safe, ethical, have the potential to reduce the risk of diseases, and can create a more happier and successful life for the child.
Like many scientific areas of study, the manipulation of genes in embryos is controversial. Some groups are against manipulating genes this way, especially Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics are against the procedure because of the termination of embryos (Hanson). When creating designer babies, multiple eggs are fertilized in a laboratory setting. Then the doctors choose what appear to be the healthier embryos while discarding the others. This is a morally fraught practice to the Roman Catholics. They believe that by discarding the embryos, the doctors are ending human lives. Roman Catholics will also argue that the parent has no right to play the role as God. In their opinion, children are creations of God and should not be altered by parents. Not only will parents be disrupting their religious beliefs, but they will be going against the child’s free will. The child might not want the characteristics given to them by their own parents. Groups against the procedure also say it is unsafe. They think that the cellular disruptions when editing genes may cause problems later on in the child’s future. They say that rather than taking the designer baby approach, parents can resort to safer options, like adoption (Darnovsky). To opposers, the designer baby process is considered immoral, unsafe and a barrier to free will.
Creating a designer baby is safe and there is no reason to call it unethical. Dissenters of the procedure will go against this and say the fertilization of babies outside the female body is unsafe and say it is unethical to discard unhealthy embryos because they are still living human beings. But, the process is similar to In-vitro fertilization, a common fertilization operation that is completely safe. In-vitro requires the eggs to be fertilized outside of the woman’s body, just like designer babies. Furthermore, like designer babies, in-vitro was once attacked for being deemed as unsafe and not necessary. However, “It turned out in the end that IVF is perfectly safe, and now it’s a common procedure” (Waldman). Designer babies, because of how similar they are to in-vitro, are also safe and should also be considered common. And with the embryos that are discarded, they are terminated at a very early stage that can have the baby considered not living yet. The embryo is not yet living because it does not have a conscious. Embryos are formed usually within one to eight weeks (Hall). While a fetus, developed after fourteen to sixteen weeks of the embryo being implanted, has a brain that can react to external stimuli, and can voluntary move. With this said, embryos that are thrown away are not considered alive yet because they are clearly far away from when the fetus actually has the ability to think and react. Opponents to the designer baby procedure consider it unethical and unsafe, but are proven wrong as the process is deemed safe by scientists and embryos thrown away are not living.
Designer babies are also important as they can reduce the chances of a child getting an illness. Genetic engineering on embryos could be used for common diseases that run down a family line like heart, neurological and mental illnesses. If a parent knew that they carried a gene to a disease and had access to the designer baby process, they could have scientists easily remove the gene linked to the disease. It could also be foreseen that the process could be adapted to treat lesser problems that are still bothersome. This can include problems like allergies and myopia. The child who has their genes edited for the better, will be living a happier and stress-free lifestyle. Designer babies are important as they are potentially a cure to diseases and bodily issues.
The designer baby process can also affect how happy and successful a child can be in the future. Children can be genetically altered with favorable traits like strength, intelligence, and resistance to illnesses. If a child has this resistance to illnesses, they will live a more comfortable and relaxed lifestyle. If a child has greater intelligence or strength, they may have greater success if they choose to pursue a specific academic discipline or a professional athletic career. Objectors, especially from the Roman Catholic church, will say that the parents should not play the role of God and instead should let the child be who they naturally become. However, If the parent can potentially make the child’s life easier by providing greater strength or intelligence, why not take advantage of this? The children with manipulated genes have more desirable characteristics, and thus they will experience an improved living experience. For those who see this as disturbing, Waldman says, “exactly what would be wrong with that?… Why? Try to articulate why it’s wrong to use genetic engineering to make a child smarter than they might be if we were just flipping the genetic coin.” The opposition says that this goes against the child’s free will. However, if a child was engineered to be, for example smarter, would they really wish their parents had left them at a lower intelligence level? Along with this, other characteristics like bad vision or small hands, are conscious decisions not made by one’s self. Although characteristics like these are natural, it does not mean that they are a product of free will. So, either way, whether the parents choose the child’s characteristics or not, the child has no choice. Whether the parents choose the child’s characteristics or not, the child has no choice in this matter. The parents might as well make the child more successful with traits they can benefit from. The designer baby process is a product of an uncontrollable characteristic but is made to only keep the child happy and make them successful in their lifetime.
There are many objections from groups such as the Roman Catholic Church that disapprove of the designer baby process because it involves the termination of embryos. These organizations also cite safety issues and the unnatural ability to control a child’s traits as reasons for their stance. Although dissenters think this way, the designer baby will live a better life because of its favorable traits and the fact that no inherited diseases will be present in its genetic makeup. In this case, the benefits outweigh the negatives proposed by dissenters. If parents have the chance and accessibility to give their child a better life, the designer baby approach suits their needs and builds a better future for both the parents and their child.
Haberman, Clyde. “Scientists Can Design ‘Better’ Babies. Should They?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/06/10/us/11retro-baby-genetics.html.
Hanson, Jack. “Designer Babies.” Weather Control Technology | Controlling the Weather, www.futureforall.org/bioengineering/designer-babies.html.
Waldman, Paul. “In Praise of Designer Babies.” The American Prospect, prospect.org/article/praise-designer-babies.
Hill, M.A. (2018, October 9) Embryology Timeline human development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Timeline_human_development
Darnovsky, Marcy. “Genetically Modified Babies.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/opinion/genetically-modified-babies.html.