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In Search Of Perfection Essay

2128 words - 9 pages

Keywords: genetic engineering, moral issues, genetic changes, genetic technologiesIn Search of PerfectionThere is no doubt that any other field is as closely connected with human life as medicine. Yet medicine has been so greatly affected by technological advances that it has gone beyond therapy and towards the limits of our imagination. Unlike a few years ago, when conceiving a baby girl or a baby boy was a matter of chance, today's prospective parents can choose to alter the genetic make-up of their children in order to enhance their offsprings' well-being in the future. It is not clear, however, if modern society is ready to face consequences of genetic engineering. On one hand, scientists agree that from medical standpoint genetic technologies do, in fact, hold promising potential. On the other hand, genetic engineering focused on improvement of the human species involves profound ethical and political risks that are to be taken into serious consideration. Not until we become fully aware of the issues surrounding genetic technologies should we pursue the illusion of creating a "perfect baby" and intrude upon our children's lives by intervening into their genes.Let us have a closer look at what genetic engineering is. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, genetic engineering is "a scientific alternation of the structure of genetic material in a living organism." Richard Hayes simplified the definition and described genetic engineering as "changing the genes in a living cell" (1). Scientists differentiate between somatic and germline engineering. Richard Hayes further explains that in somatic therapy (after the Greek word "soma," for "body"), manipulation occurs in cells that constitute bodily organs and tissues. In germline therapy intervention takes place in the genes of sperm, eggs, or very early embryos ("germline," because eggs and sperm are the "germinal" or "germline" cells) (1).Both therapies started out at the level of corrective intervention with a common goal of curing diseases humanity had not been able to cure for centuries. Richard Hayes notices that people indeed "associate these technologies with the possibility of miracle cures, notably for the many tragically fatal inherited conditions" (4). The only difference between the two applications is that somatic therapy does not affect future generations, while germline does. In his article "Patents Pending," Jeremy Rifkin, a president of the Foundation of Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., states that "in germline therapy genetic changes... made in the sperm, egg or embryonic cells are passed along to future generations" (1). So, on one hand, germline engineering gives people a chance to avoid passing on genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis, while on the other hand, says Rifkin, it opens "a possibility of programming genetic changes into the human germ line to direct the evolutionary development of future generations..."...

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