• Tue, Jul 10 2012

Pre-Testing Embryos For Genetic Abnormalities Does Not Create ‘Designer’ Babies

in vitro fertilizationWhat on earth is a “designer” baby? Are we talking about the little ones in the new Dolce & Gabbana underwear ad wearing D&G diapers? Maybe the offspring of actual fashion designers?

No, according the Daily Mail, “designer” babies is the new way to describe children born through in vitro fertilization who were pre-screened for genetic abnormalities before they were even implanted. Apparently enormous leaps in medical technology need catchy PR campaigns to gain attention.

The saddest part about this really horrible phrase is that it’s being used to draw attention to a remarkable story. Julia Eynon and her husband Stuart went through four rounds of IVF and miscarried twins twice before they were actually able to give birth to two healthy, adorable little ones. I cannot imagine that pain and struggle they dealt with as they went through years of trying to get pregnant and multiple miscarriages.

Finally, doctors were able to determine that the couple both carried genetic abnormalities that made it near impossible for them to deliver a healthy baby on their own. They would mostly like continue to miscarry around six weeks or deliver stillbirth infants at full-term without medical intervention. The horror at hearing such news must be unbelievable.

Thankfully, doctors have more resources than ever available to them when trying to help couples conceive. Reproductive technology has truly grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Doctors were able to do a genetic screening on Julia and Stuart’s embryos before implantation to determine which embryos had the best chances of healthy delivery. One round of IVF produced no viable embryos at all. But finally, the couple got lucky and found two embryos that could be used. A short 27 weeks later, Julia and Stuart gave birth to Holly and Aaron.

The twins were only 2 and 2.4 lbs when they were delivered, but a year later, they are happy, healthy youngsters. Would I call these children’s birth incredible? Definitely. Would I call them “designer” babies? No.

Calling anything “designer” implies that it’s a luxury. It implies that it’s better than plain, old generic. Having healthy kids shouldn’t need to be a luxury. And I would imagine that Julia and Stuart are simply happy to have children, no matter how the achievement was accomplished.

The title of “designer” babies sets children born through reproductive technology apart. It makes them different. And while this certain label could be seen as a good thing, others still say that those differences are bad. The Catholic Church says that having a child through IVF can “can hinder the maturing of his personality.” They seek to set babies born through IVF aside, as if there’s something wrong with them because they weren’t conceived “the old-fashioned way.”

How about we get rid of both of those extremes. Let’s not call these babies anything but two more, wonderful little people brought into the world. They aren’t “designer.” They definitely aren’t going to have personality defects because of the method of their birth. They’re beautiful children born to two happy and loving parents. That’s enough to celebrate.

(Photo: somersault18:24/Shutterstock)

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  • Katia

    Its one thing if the church objects to new-fangled baby making because of embryo destruction. I think most people get the logic there. But they are officially too cray cray for saying there might be sth wrong with any children based on their conception. I feel like we should just stop mentioning the popes stance on anything. Does anyone see him (this particular pope) as wise? The dalai lama is way wiser …like him on fb to see!

  • Eileen

    Well, no, most people would not think that creating only embryos without genetic abnormalities that would make them unviable is making “designer” babies. But what about, say, Down syndrome? Or the breast cancer gene? Or the obesity gene? Or color-blindness? There are lots of undesirable genetic abnormalities that make life harder. But there have been lots of amazing people with those abnormalities. Who gets to decide what potential “abnormality” makes a human not worth ever existing – and why should we let him?

    That’s not even to mention the fact that fancy reproductive technology is an upper-class kind of thing…which kind of means that the balance of kids born with special needs would tilt towards the poorer end of the spectrum, possibly stigmatizing such conditions even more.

    • kate

      exactly eileen. the reason people start saying things like “designer babies” is because it leads down the road to picking out other things…hand dominanc, eye color, height, etc. this is were someone usually mentions the movie Gattica. its a slippery slope. and not that im not happy for these people, but its also very stressful on a baby to be born at 27 weeks. My daughter was born with lung issues at 37 weeks and spent a harrowing weak in the hospital and while now healthy, is slightly behind developmental, so i can only imagine the set backs and issues these twins could potentially have born so incredibly early.

    • kate

      exactly eileen. the reason people start saying things like “designer babies” is because it leads down the road to picking out other things…hand dominanc, eye color, height, etc. this is were someone usually mentions the movie Gattica. its a slippery slope. and not that im not happy for these people, but its also very stressful on a baby to be born at 27 weeks. My daughter was born with lung issues at 37 weeks and spent a harrowing weak in the hospital and while now healthy, is slightly behind developmental, so i can only imagine the set backs and issues these twins could potentially have born so incredibly early.

    • kate

      sorry for the duplicate post

    • lex350

      no…eileen, it is not ‘fancy reproductive technology’. My husband and I are both recessive carriers of a very rare genetic disease, which we passed to our LO. The abnormality came up on the ultrasound, we tested, and for future children,should we choose to DNA and gene test or do IUI, it is all covered by our middle class health insurance, because of our history of a very serious disease. Dont be so judgemental.

      I would sincerely hope that this type of test would be used to lessen the passing of deadly, heartbreaking, painful genetic illnesses (tay sachs, Trisomy 18 and 15). Raising a child with special needs is a BLESSING, not bestowed on many. I am miraculously blessed with my daughter, who amazes me daily– and while we will have a hard road with many challenges, I wouldnt have it any other way….my girl is so special.

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