Choosing genetic defects?

Sometimes I have to wait some minutes before commenting a newspaper article. New York Times has a report on parents who are affected with a genetic condition or disorder and want their children to have the same problem. How can it be? Preimplantation genetic diagnosis ( P.G.D. ) is a process in which oocytes are fertilized in a test tube and their DNA is analyzed before being transferred to a woman’s uterus. It’s a very early form of prenatal diagnosis. In this manner, embryos destined to have, for example, cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease can be excluded, and only healthy embryos implanted.

A lesbian and deaf couple from Maryland who both attended Gallaudet University and set out to have a deaf child by intentionally soliciting a deaf sperm donor.

“A hearing baby would be a blessing,” Ms. Duchesneau was quoted as saying. “A deaf baby would be a special blessing.”

So because of their disorder, they also want their children to suffer. By the way, we can understand these parents as many of them share a touching faith that having children similar to them will strengthen family and social bonds. But should we manipulate our children for our pleasure? An other example:

Mary Ellen Little, a New Jersey nurse with dwarfism, had her first daughter before a prenatal test for achondroplasia was available. For her second child, she had amniocentesis. “I prayed for a little one,” meaning a dwarf, she told me.

And the opinions of the doctors:

Still, most providers of P.G.D. find such requests unacceptable. Dr. Robert J. Stillman of the Shady Grove Fertility Center in Rockville, Md., has denied requests to use the process for selecting deafness and dwarfism. “In general, one of the prime dictates of parenting is to make a better world for our children,” he said in an interview. “Dwarfism and deafness are not the norm.”

Dr. Yury Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, who also refuses these requests, said, “If we make a diagnostic tool, the purpose is to avoid disease.”

But both doctors said they would not oppose sending families to other doctors who might consent.


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