Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
In the United States, an estimated 2.3 million couples are considered infertile [Wekesser, 1996]. This creates a large need for infertility specialists and clinics specializing in fertility treatments. With the quickly advancing field of rep roductive services and the quest for creating better, healthier babies, a new service called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is being offered in conjunction with In vitro fertilization.
PGD is a procedure that combines In vitro fertilization and genetic screening. In vitro fertilization is a procedure that requires a large time commitment; the entire procedure lasts about four weeks. The woman receives daily injections for seven to twelve days to stimulate the release of her eggs. After she begins to ovulate, the eggs are retrieved by inserting a needle through her vaginal wall. The eggs are then fertilized in a petri dish. After fertilization, the resulting embryos are allowed to mature to the six or eight cell stage. Then with the use of micromanipulation, a technician extracts one cell from each embryo. Polymerase Chain Reaction is then used to produce multiple copies of the cell’s DNA. [Wekesser,1996] Scientists are then able to test for specific disorders once they know the location of the gene that causes the disorder and have developed a test for its presence [Jaroff,1996]. The healthy embryos are implanted or frozen for future use, and the unhealthy embryos are d iscarded [Kenen,1994]. This procedure is still being perfected and clinics that perform this procedure are scarce. According to Denise Grady , in the United States there are only seven clinics that perform PGD.
PGD was developed to increase the number of healthy children born to couples who carry genetic disorders. It is used to select female embryos for couples who carry genes for hemophilia and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which only affect males, and to select embryos which have blood types compatible to their mother’s. It can also be used to test for Tay-Sachs Disease, Fragile-X Mental Retardation, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and Spinal Muscular Atrophy. In the past couples who wanted to have childr en, and were carriers of inherited diseases, worried about the possibility of their children inheriting the disease. Parents will no longer have this worry. In 1989, an English couple became the first to use PGD [Grady,1995]. It was used because they were at risk of passing along a form of severe mental retardation. Because it only affected sons, PGD was used to ensure that the couple had a daughter.
Public Policy Debates
Although PGD is a relatively new procedure, there are several ethical questions surrounding its use. One question is, "Should parents be allowed to choose characteristics for their children that are not related to disorders such as their baby’s eye color, personality, or even the sex of their baby?" [Wekesser,1996]. Until the genes...