It's the stuff of science fiction nightmares: genetically engineered babies who would have three parents -- two who would raise him or her (presumably) and a third whose DNA is used only to eradicate genetic diseases in one of the other parents. Holy hell that is scary and it might be legal in the UK. Soon.
The concept is like many others in genetically engineered embryos. It's supposed to be a breakthrough, something that could all but eliminate genetic diseases and issues. But it also brings up massive ethical concerns. British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been charged with examining the resulting child's sense of identity or any legal issues that might arise from bringing a third party into the parental mix. But this should be obvious. I don't mean to sound reactionary, but this just seems like playing with fire.
Medical breakthroughs are great when they have to do with curing people of diseases or helping those who are here live better lives. But aren't some things better left "natural"? The whole concept of genetic engineering seems like a slippery slope. It may help people who can't conceive because of diseases have their own genetic babies, but at what cost? Is it worth it?
I say it's not. I know I am in a lucky position. We got pregnant easily and both my husband and I were tested for genetic problems before pregnancy in order to conceive. But I also know we would have opted to adopt or used donor sperm or eggs if we thought it was dangerous for us to conceive. Somehow this idea of three parents seems unnatural and wrong.
It also discounts the child's feelings. Sure, using donor sperm or eggs has its own host of issues. But it's still within the realm of the natural world. One egg. One sperm. You roll the dice. That IS conception, people. This feels dangerously close to changing the entire way we have babies.
What is to stop parents from picking the traits of 15 people someday and trying to put them all together as one baby? As parents, part of the beauty of having a baby together for me was the randomness. I have two children. They are very different from one another. My son is blond. My daughter has light brown hair. My son is wild and silly. My daughter is more cerebral and silly. My daughter has my husband's eyes. My son has mine.
This changes all that. Why is it so important for parents to share SOME genetic connection with their child that they would be willing to do something like this? Couldn't they love a child just as much who lacked a genetic connection?
Something about this just feels wrong. It feels like a path we can't get off once we go down. Not every single "problem" demands a solution. Sometimes "natural" is better. To me, the ethical concerns are just too many. Sure, it may bring in new hope for many. But what it takes away isn't worth the trade-off.
Do you think this seems OK?
Image via boklm/Flickr