Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Medical Ethics (engineering your children)

There is something just wrong about this story.

A Commons Science and Technology Committee report said more decisions about fertility treatment should be made by patients and their doctors.

The MPs also called for the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to be disbanded.

And they said "taboo" research, such as implanting human cells into animals, should be considered, with regulation.

I have terrible Island of Dr. Moreau visions reading that, but wait thre's more...

And it said there was no "compelling evidence" to prohibit couples undergoing IVF being able to choose to have a girl or boy if that was what they felt was necessary to "balance out" their family.

The MPs also said that decisions about whether to allow embryos to be checked for genetic conditions, or to see if they are a match for a sick sibling - should be taken out of the hands of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Instead, patients and their doctors should decide if it should be used in their case, under the auspices of a local ethics committee, the report said.

Pick your child's traits. Genetic engineering, Gattica (I love that movie!) The study actually uses the term chimera (human/animal genetic monstrosity) and suggests the only limits should be scientific and the will of individual scientists.

This is one of those situations that just pop out as being "wrong." There are plenty of reasons for this (think Aldous Huxley's Brave New World because as Judge Smails says "the world needs ditch diggers...") but reason is secondary to the fact that this is just plain wrong. If we begin with boy/girl we all know it won't end there. We will start allowing parents to pick any number of genetically malleable traits.

From there it is not difficult to imagine a shortage of labor. Take for instance unskilled labor, such as a general manufacturer. Eventually no parent is going to "build" their child without some special skill that will greatly benefit them in their adult life. As such there will be no one left to take the low-level labor jobs. Once this shortage becomes apparent, government will have to act. Since we already have (theoretically) decades of genetic engineering behind us, we won't hesitate to "create' government peoples with no special skills to perform the labor....boom that drug-addled Huxley's vision of a Brave New World is realized as privileged individuals are created as such and "others" are created to dig the ditches...

I'm just saying, it seems genetic engineering is the slippriest of all slippery slopes.