The Future of Designer Babies

More and more attention has been drawn to designer babies, which are babies that are developed through a method that allows professionals to select the genetic makeup of an embryo so that the baby is born with specific traits. Likewise, professionals can also ensure that the baby is born without undesirable traits. This article is not about an episode of Black Mirror. Rather, this is an actual scientific and medical development that has started to charge in recent years.

Why would potential parents want a designer baby? Well, by allowing scientists to select embryos with certain traits, potential parents can make sure that their baby-to-be isn’t born with certain genetic markers that could make them susceptible to fatal or chronic diseases. This sounds like a great advancement and one that can thrust humanity into an age of minimized genetic illnesses. If both parents are carriers for a disease it may be the safest option for them to make sure their potential baby does not carry the genetic code for the disease. In the USA, there are no federal laws that regulate this procedure, unlike in various European countries which have very strict guidelines that need to be followed. These procedures can select for a multitude of variables that do not include genetic illnesses, like even the sex of their baby-to-be.

Although designer babies seem like a fantastic solution to potential genetic illnesses, it comes at a hefty cost. The procedure is an incredibly expensive one that the average American would not have the luxury to pay for. What could this mean? This has the potential to create a very clear class divide, if only Americans who have the money to get this procedure actually take advantage of it, which would leave a huge population of socioeconomically disadvantaged people that may potentially have children with genetic-related illness and no means or opportunity to change this outcome. Those who are wealthy enough to go through the procedure can begin to create children that they know will have certain hair colors, eye colors, height, and so on. This can potentially create a ‘super’ population of people in America who are gifted these attributes during conception.

These designer babies have been the center of many controversies and arguments. If people begin to make more and more strides in selecting traits for their potential children, these children could have a much greater advantage in life as a whole compared to those conceived by conventional methods. Is a risk of a ‘super’ population of the (predominantly) upper class something that shouldn't be ethical? Even if a ‘super’ population was created, another risk is having too many individuals with the same genetic makeup. Thus, through Darwinian concepts, if a tragedy were to happen, due to the similarity in genetics, such a tragedy may be able to wipe out entire populations. These scenarios begin to blur the line between what should be allowed to be selected and what shouldn’t be. Looking at the genetic code as whole, when people begin to manipulate their genetics, these are passed onto future offspring. With any little mistake, a fatal genome can be passed on without anybody knowing about it . Accidents can happen and these accidents come with the burden of impacting various people down the line.

As this is a highly debated topic, many people have their own opinions on the concept. This article is not meant to display any preference for or against designer babies, but rather, to simply state some of the discussed aspects of it. Various professionals and scientist have said that making an international guideline for all countries to follow may be the best way to ensure the morality of genetically engineering potential on human beings. The concept may seem rare but it is something that needs to be mentioned sooner rather than later to ensure the safety of all potential babies-to-be.

References:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603633/us-panel-endorses-designer-babies-to-avoid-serious-disease/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612618/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/regulate-designer-babies/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028207012162?via%3Dihub

https://www.theweek.co.uk/95108/designer-babies-the-arguments-for-and-against

Nathalia Schettino