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The Ethics Of Genetic Engineering And "Designer Babies"

1496 words - 6 pages

In the last century, there has been a veritable explosion of new revelations, discoveries and understandings that dwarf the accomplishments of the great scientists of the past and peers deeply into a new universe that they could only postulate about. The study of life on earth has made particularly amazing progress, with the exploration of infinitesimally small worlds like the inner workings of the human genome. It is when science approaches the very building blocks of life that it comes dangerously near crossing a line into the unethical. As medical technology advances and opens new windows into bioengineering the genes of developing human embryos, governments across the world must strive to create and protect good legislation that protects, defines, and ensures human health and progress while protecting free will, the rights of parents and children to be born.Genetic engineering and "designer babies"--embryos which are genetically altered so that they are born with or without certain characteristics--are issues surrounded by controversy. Religious right-wingers have suggested that bioengineering isplaying God, and many people have even gone so far as to say that genetic screening ofembryos 'takes away the gift of life'. Most world religions believe that childbirth is a sacred thing or holy event. They argue that the creation of a unique individual is the job of nobody but the divine Creator, whichever Creator they choose to believe in. These arguments, however, are against a shortsighted definition of "designer babies" and an incorrect assumption about prenatal genetic engineering.In 2002 in the United States alone, 10,687 infants died due to birth defects--the number one cause of infant mortality in that country. (CDC) Indeed, genetic engineering is the beginning of the end of many horrible birth defects that mutilate or kill hundreds of thousands of infants each year.When debating the ethics of genetic engineering, it is crucial to consider the multitude of procedures that are already available that can accomplish things that were once impossible, and how much suffering these procedures can and already have eliminated. Scientists can screen for healthy embryos so that genetic defects that may be crippling or fatal to the newborn infant can be detected early and, in some cases, ensure the child will be free of genetic diseases such as Huntingdon's disease and cystic fibrosis. Many of these procedures are performed with few or no problems for both mother and embryo. Parents today can use prenatal screening to diagnose disease before birth, when there may still be time to correct the problem, and doctors can gain valuable insight that will eventually lead to in-depth knowledge of genetic birth defects, as well as how and why they occur and how to prevent them. (Laurie 102) To consider the ethical ramifications of these new technologies, one must consider what ethicists call potential suffering, or the amount of suffering that each person...

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