Pediatrician
Dr. Shapiro completed his undergraduate education at UC San Diego, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and a B.A. in Political Science. He furthered his education at UCLA where he earned a Masters Degree in Public…
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Designer Babies: How Far Will We Go?
Posted in Abstinence & Ce... by Dr. Jeremy F. Shapiro on Mar 25, 2009

A question I am asked more often than you might think comes from proud parents wanting to know the ultimate eye color of their newborn child.  In fact, even after reminding them it may take a few months (if not longer) before we know the true color of their child's eyes, some parents can't refrain from asking this question at every possible opportunity.  But I'm now beginning to wonder whether it will be me who asks the question of eye color thanks to some relatively recent technology known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). 


Simply put, PGD allows for determination of the genetic make-up of an early embryo.  And while it is similar to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) in that it provides genetic information about a child before his/her birth, it differs from these two more well known procedures in that it is performed prior to the embryo's implantation into the uterus rather than during the course of the pregnancy. 


Now up until recently, PGD allowed for detection of certain single gene defects (such as Fragile X, Cystic Fibrosis, ALS, Sickle Cell Anemia, among others), abnormal chromosome numbers (including Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18, and Trisomy 13), and gender.  And while we can debate the significance of knowing one's gender at such an early point in time, I'm sure many realize the benefit for parents to have access to this technology if they know they are carriers of specific genetic mutations or chromosomal abnormalities or have older children with a particular disease increasing the risk in future children as well.


But fresh on the heels of the birth of the octuplets, it appears our moral and for some, religious core, will be tested once again as a fertility clinic in Los Angeles is now willing to create designer babies...ones where the parents can choose eye, hair, skin qualities as well as the baby's gender.  And while I believe there is true value in the technology of PGD, I am more than alarmed it is now being offered as an opportunity for parents to cherry pick certain features in their children.


What will be next?  Only implanting embryos with the potential of having IQs above 150 or felt to have Olympian promise and just discarding the rest?   Selecting those only with blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin?


So while we wait for U.S. laws to govern the use of this technology, I find it imperative we take it upon ourselves to step up and make sure our voices are heard. 


 


Dr. Jeremy

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21
I believe this is just the beginning of sorting kids... the good from the bad... but be careful... you may end up with a bunch a beautiful people who have no "inner strength and or real beauty" or purpose in life! There may be something to be said for the sperm that swims the fastest? :) Life experiences change things...all this sorting and getting the "perfect person" does not take into account the many unexpected life events and surprises that can change the course of a life in an instant. Accidents (car, swimming etc.) Anyone of us tomorrow could be handicap for the rest of our lives.

I can only thank GOD that I did not know my Childs dx prenatally. Due to a previous false positive AFP test and further amnio...(which came out just fine) I did not want that several week stress again so opted not to do the AFP on my 4th child at age 39. She arrived with Patau Syndrome, (Trisomy 13) To say the least, we were shocked and immediately did all we could for child. Initially we were told they did not do much for these kids and allowed them to die naturally. My thoughts were, if another child of mine was given a diagnosis of cancer, Would I allow them to die naturally? Or in a serious car accident, allow them to die and not offer them any treatment? NO way, this child, who we already loved for the last 9 months deserved no less. We opted for added medical intervention. What a blessing this sweet child has been to our lives.

Is it easy to think you could never handle a special needs child or dwell on the burden you believe they would be to you, not wanting to change the "dream life" you envision. I can only tell you, there are many families who have moved forward with special needs kids and most would tell you they are an amazing blessing to them. The JOYS out weigh the sorrows etc.

I often wonder how different our life might have been without our special child... who is so imperfect to this world yet probably the most perfect among us... I can only say I am a better person because of this soul, our family is blessed to have her in our lives, and I know her life has made a difference to many who have met her.

I loved your response yearsoftears... sound like some on this list have not experienced lifes full circle of unexpected events... God not only offers diversity in this world, he loves to knock those on the head who think like admiral...:)
By Trisomy13Support  May 17, 2009
20
I believe this is just the beginning of sorting kids... the good from the bad... but be careful... you may end up with a bunch a beautiful people who have no "inner strength and or real beauty" or purpose in life! There may be something to be said for the sperm that swims the fastest? :) Life experiences change things...all this sorting and getting the "perfect person" does not take into account the many unexpected life events and surprises that can change the course of a life in an instant. Accidents (car, swimming etc.) Anyone of us tomorrow could be handicap for the rest of our lives.

I can only thank GOD that I did not know my Childs dx prenatally. Due to a previous false positive AFP test and further amnio...(which came out just fine) I did not want that several week stress again so opted not to do the AFP on my 4th child at age 39. She arrived with Patau Syndrome, (Trisomy 13) To say the least, we were shocked and immediately did all we could for child. Initially we were told they did not do much for these kids and allowed them to die naturally. My thoughts were, if another child of mine was given a diagnosis of cancer, Would I allow them to die naturally? Or in a serious car accident, allow them to die and not offer them any treatment? NO way, this child, who we already loved for the last 9 months deserved no less. We opted for added medical intervention. What a blessing this sweet child has been to our lives.

Is it easy to think you could never handle a special needs child or dwell on the burden you believe they would be to you, not wanting to change the "dream life" you envision. I can only tell you, there are many families who have moved forward with special needs kids and most would tell you they are an amazing blessing to them. The JOYS out weigh the sorrows etc.

I often wonder how different our life might have been without our special child... who is so imperfect to this world yet probably the most perfect among us... I can only say I am a better person because of this soul, our family is blessed to have her in our lives, and I know her life has made a difference to many who have met her.

I loved your response yearsoftears... sound like some on this list have not experienced lifes full circle of unexpected events... God not only offers diversity in this world, he loves to knock those on the head who think like admiral...:)
By Trisomy13Support  May 17, 2009
19
Well...DR. Jeremy..I have some diff. views on this topic...I have one son dx with autism and as ya very well know....its more dominant in males. I have always wanted one boy and one girl...I value the option to spin off the male sperm and have a 93% chance of having a girl.

I do not believe that a parent of an "affected or mentally ill child" should be fined or jailed, as posted by a previous person...we do not know what cause's every single birth defect! My son is dx'ed with Mental Retardation as well...I never did drugs....why is he affected? Should I be blamed for the genetics of his father or myself?

Is this just GOD's way of placing diversity in the world...so that human kind can have a heart and seek to love the most undesirable? Think poster's.....before you speak! Anyone of us could walk out our door at any given moment...be hurt in an accident.....and resemble..a mentally challenged person...Go to a Trama unit...and you will see....how normal healthy individuals...were also affected....
By yearsoftears  Apr 09, 2009
18
Scary Sci-Fi story coming true. These advances in medicine should be used for issues dealing with the health of the child, nothing else. Someday maybe they'll come up with a test to see if the mother and /or father will be good parents! There's a test we could use.
By ccc215  Apr 03, 2009
17
No one should be allow to have a child w/out State and/are federal permit and max number of children allowed per woman being 2.

"what makes us human - the fact that we can reason and see the value of all people" will animals do the same thing.

It should be State & Federal law that mandates that people should be tested for physical & mental illness and for additive personality - gene and family history calulated in befor a woman is given permission - a state permit to have max of 2 children with 1 of same male.

Even then the pdoc, police, courts jobs will remain sercured.

I feel that parents should be sued and jailed for having additive to drugs baby and aid babys and parents should be fined when their child becomes mental ill when the child is in its 20tys and retested in its 40tys for mental illness. Parents should be fined for children who have physical illness. illness's that self serving parents intentional gave thier children.

With tecnology, race will be takein into account as will as county in which the gene pool is located.

With available tecnology and medical test that i had done on 2 bothers who I adopted after they where given a life time clean bill of health.
People should test and adopt healthy children which selfess people pop out.

Can technology take perfered genes - DNA to creat healthy child- now that would be worth the work.
will hospitals hire poor woman to carry rich people babys to term and at what price. Its already been proven that cattle can carry a human baby and give birth by c section. McD hamburgers may have been 1 of those cows,lol.

The money used for DNA selection should be used to illiminate addictive personality being that U.S. being #1 user of drugs and #1 demand of drug market.

Humans had to study moneys to learn from monkeys how to be social and how to take care of our babys and children. na humans didnt learn this from humans. So you may begin to see that animals take into count the value of thier off spring.
By Admiral  Mar 30, 2009
16
I have some of the same ethical concerns the doctor discussed. Right now I am childless and would love to have a child. Just today, my husband and I agreed if we were to get pregnant we will be happy with whatever we receive. I understand some people make choices due to financial concerns--which deeply saddens me. Although it is your body and you have the right to do what you want, I find it disheartening when people feel like we have to be like other "animals" and discard an imperfect child. I think this choice is what what makes us human--the fact we can reason and see the value of all people.
By hopeful35  Mar 29, 2009
15
When I had my first babay, in 1974, there was no ultra-sound, so we didn't know what gender our child would be.

We had to hope that our baby would be healthy.

Most of us, back then, knew couples who hadn't been able to have children of their own.

They either adopted, Fostered, or just accepted that they would not have children.

IVF wasn't thought of.

Nowadays, it seems that every couple who haven't conceived to order, can go for IVF. They seem to think it's their right to have such treatment.

I believe that that attitude is wrong.

Especially in the climate in which too many people can't get the drugs they need to treat various cancers, or to relieve constant pain.

As for genetically engineering a child to have certain characteristics, well, that's just wrong.

Next step, Nazi politics......
By mixi  Mar 29, 2009
14
by my own choise I choose not to be bio mother.
After haveing test done on adoptable children I selected 2 brothers who have blond hair, blue eyes and olive complexion who I adopted and who would not have heart illness nor mental illness.
I feel that fetus should be tested for possibilty of illness's and illiminated if defected. pdoc jobs will still remain sercured because so many believe that a baby with 10 fingues and toes is and will remain healthy are parents to be just dont care and thier self serving to please the man and used as means to hold on to a male at least for 2 to 4 more yrs.
Tech is just useing what Hilter started and so wanted.
even cats, birds,fish etc... will discard defected offsprings.
oh ya I knew that my sons would be at least 6ft. thier both 6'2"
I feel that we can select and adopt from what we already have available.
By Admiral  Mar 29, 2009
13
This is terrible. Parents should accept their children the way they are. Choosing their looks doesn't mean choosing their personalities, so I don't see what there is to gain. Plus they should think about all the couples that struggle to have kids and they can't... those who are blessed and have kids have no rights to do it.
By rockittie88  Mar 28, 2009
12
To anyone who reads science fiction, this is not a new idea. It's been around for years and universally portrayed as horrible. A hundred years ago it was Eugenics; the science of 'breeding' superior people as we do with animals and that led to all KINDS of nastiness like the 'Master Race' ideology of the Nazis to forced sterilization of 'undesirable' people here in the US. Now that we can manipulate things on the genetic level, we can START there instead of waiting until people are born. The thing of it is, if you start messing around with genetic material too much you're likely to end up with unexpected mutations that are ghastly. Some things are best left alone, and this is one of them.
By ALC67  Mar 27, 2009
11
To me its as if they forgot about the fact its a miracle to have a child and to pick and choose the child you are blessed with its absolutely ourageous!! I beleive we are given children with disabilities for a reason. Whatever that reason is I am still not absolutely sure but what I do know is that those children bring together families and communities and proove to the world that anything is possible. They are truely wonderful children. Unfortunate that some diseases cause death in extreme cases, keep in mind that perfectly healthy children sadly come victim to death as well. It goes both ways. As for picking gender and eye color....that I still cannot grasp,,, It takes away all the excitement and dreams and wonder and the day you see your baby the feeling of surprise because you had no idea what you were going to be looking at. I see this as becoming some type of population control procedure down the line. What other reason would there be for ultimately doing things like this, THeres gotta be more to it.....
By sharon426  Mar 27, 2009
10
Just an update about this clinic...it appears they've removed their offer of creating "designer babies"...at least for now. But I'm pretty confident it won't be long until we see it again.
By DrJeremy  Mar 27, 2009
9
I suppose I could see it coming - but the more scary thing is the fact that a Doctor was willing to implant at least 8 embryos (unless there was spontaneous monos involved) into the womb of a woman, who already had several children. I wonder who picks up the tab for this sort of stupidity!!! We had a case (Western Australia) a few years ago, when all 4 embryos implanted reached term - the mother chose to take only 1 home (Pretty clearly she already had at least 1 child). The State Legislated, and at least another followed, so that only 3 embryos can be implanted now. Selecting for fair skin, by the way, is silly, in the US - melanoma anyone? JKD.
By JaneD  Mar 26, 2009
8
Like all technology, a two-edged sword. It really is all about how it is controlled.
By ClaresMom  Mar 26, 2009
7
Science gives us the ability to do myriad of things, some are wonderful, and some are choices I don't wish on my worst enemy. When a child is born with problems, as mine were, I didn't resent them or regret my decision, I welcomed the entire world of change that they offered me. From the day they exited my womb I have become a kinder person, and I realize that each child, each person, with all of their "non-selective" traits, offer the world so much beyond the sum of their parts, flaws and all.
By momah  Mar 26, 2009
6
If someone truly didn't want a baby for some reason then I can't help thinking that it's better that they never implant that embryo than that they have that child and make it regret for the rest of its life that it wasn't a boy or blue-eyed or whatever they or their culture prefer. People can be pretty shallow and I've heard of girls being made to feel that they weren't as important as their brothers because they were female and that really isn't healthy for a child. If the parents are going to be that bad then, for the sake of their child, let them choose. An embryo is definitely not a baby and many will be discarded during the IVF process anyway (as they are during natural procreation by early miscarriage).
I suspect that IVF isn't actually that much fun and that most people who can will try to conceive in the regular way which doesn't allow for this sort of testing. If people having IVF are offered the option of testing their embryos before deciding which ones to implant, it doesn't really bother me. I think there are enough differences in the world that people will select different things anyway.
It's also pretty hard to select for lots of things as things like intelligence, sporting ability and personality will be due to huge combinations of different genes. I reckon that you wouldn't be able to get eye colour right more than 70-80% of the time based on genetic analysis.
By AbiW  Mar 26, 2009
5
the Spartans did it, crueler methods, but it is not a new idea
By insomniatonite  Mar 26, 2009
4
This is downright scary!!
By taz2009  Mar 26, 2009
3
Yeah, I agree. Not to mention the evolutionary ramifications. Our species progresses because of our differences. That includes so-called abnormalities. We're pruning away the things that might one day prove to be advantagious.
By humanrhapsody  Mar 26, 2009
2
That is just sick. Why can't the world be happy about our differences and find it a gift to have a baby at all? If your that messed up in the head that you HAVE to have a baby with brown hair blue eyes whatever then you shouldn't have children. Be thankful for the child you are giving even if he/she has ADD, autism, brown hair, or green eyes. All that matters is your a pround parent of a special child.
By superdadRKJ  Mar 25, 2009

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