Frankenbaby

by Amanda Winfield

“There may be ways, for instance, to design a baby’s genes without violating the principle of informed consent. This is the belief that no one’s genes—not even an embryo’s—should be altered without his or her permission,” (117).

In Sharon Begley’s article, “Designer Babies,” she informs the reader that in vitro fertilization, currently used for couples with fertility problems, will soon be used to create dream children. My mind wanders—hell, it sprints—to some sort of Frankenbaby. Or a baby as irresistible as John Travolta in the movie Michael. Mothers fighting off adult women in the grocery store, “He smells like my grandmothers cookies! Take my phone number! Call me when he’s sixteen.” As Begley explored the topic, I began to accept the reality of designing genetic code.

Imagine a family history free of Diabetes. You have my attention. Without the looming threat of diabetes your children are free to enjoy a life booze, diet coke and cigarettes. Dream child! Where do I sign?

In all seriousness, in a few years it may be possible to inject an artificial human gene carrying instructions to make certain cells self-destruct. Suppose a baby boy fetus with a family history of prostate cancer is injected with a designer gene. By the time his cancerous prostate cells start growing his designer gene will kick in and kick ass by causing the cells to commit suicide and he will not die of cancer (115). This is all very exciting. Man overcomes nature yet again. I knew we could do it. Never mind that we’ve created poisonous chemicals that contribute to the cancer epidemic. It would be much more boring to eradicate cancer by finding the root cause, especially if it challenges the current capitalistic globalization model. Yawn. So last year.

Believe it or not, there is opposition to these designer genes. “There is a great divide over whether we should be opening up this Pandora’s Box,” (116). However, the author says molecular biologists may have come up with a solution making the manipulation of a fetus less creepy and weird. For instance, injecting designer genes into unborn people violates the principle of informed consent. Very sane, UCLA geneticist, John Campbell gives this example: A gene for patience could be equipped with an on/off switch activated by taking drugs. (Taking drugs to alter one’s mood making them tolerable to be around— this sounds like something my uncle does. He calls it smoking pot.)  The child free to accept or reject the drug retains informed consent over her genetic code (117). I am glad some people in the science community are trying to protect the rights of the individual’s body, even a fetus. However I find it strange that the concern is only for genetic code of the unborn. Almost no one has a problem mutilating a newborn’s genitalia without his consent, or injecting our children with vaccines full of heavy metals.

Having a cynical temperament like mine, I am not interested in having the option to turn my virtue on and off with prescription drugs. If I want to be a bit nicer, I will have a glass of wine. As far as preventing hereditary diseases and disorders, I say we get our houses in order and stop causing disease before we start consciously altering our genetic makeup.

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