plays an important role in the stages of life. Unfortunately, for some,
infertility prevents this from happening.
By definition, infertility is “a disease or condition that results in
the abnormal functioning of the male of female reproductive system, which
interferes with the ability of a man or woman to achieve a pregnancy or of a
woman to carry pregnancy to live birth” (Gilbert, 2007). Those who suffer from infertility have the
desire to bear children and raise a family.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) such as In Vitro Fertilization
(IVF) have made the desires of bearing children a reality. IVF is fertilization of an egg in a laboratory dish or test tube; specifically: fertilization by mixing sperm with eggs surgically removed from an
ovary followed by uterine implantation of one or more of the resulting
fertilized eggs. Preimplantation
Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a procedure used prior to implantation to help
identify genetic defects
within embryos (Merriam-Webster
Dictionary, n.d.). PGD is preceded by IVF. In 1998, a couple
using IVF contacted the Centre for Medical Genetics to request to prescreen a
selected embryo in the hopes of finding an identical human leukocyte antigen
(HLA) donor sibling (Pennings, 2002). Since this request and procedure has
taken place, more requests have been made to prescreen embryos. This has created attention among the media
and public. In my opinion, PGD is unethical because an
individual can discard unwanted embryos along with the new uses which allows an
individual going through IVF treatments to decide who is worth living by choosing
the traits they desire their new child to possess; it also creates an imbalance
between the social classes.
Since 1990, PGD has been used to test for “aneuploidy
in low prognosis infertility patients, and for single gene and X-linked
diseases in at-risk couples” (Robertson, 2003).
In a report in July 2001:
worldwide use of PGD since 1990 reported that embryo or polar body biopsy has
occurred in more than 3000 clinical cycles, with a 24% pregnancy rate, which is
comparable with assisted reproductive practices which do not involve biopsy.
More than 1000 children have now been born after PGD, and many pregnancies are
ongoing. The available data also indicates a 97% accuracy rate in
preimplantation diagnosis, despite a high rate of allelic drop-out in single
cell PCR and the possibility of mosaicism or chaos in tested embryos (Robertson,
use has grown and may continue to grow, but it is unlikely due to the cost of
the procedure. PGD allows parents seeking IVF treatment the opportunity to
screen embryos before implantation to check for genetic diseases or terminal
illnesses as well as choosing traits they desire their children to have. The need to screen for late-onset diseases is
restricted by the limited diseases for which single gene predispositions are
already known. PGD is limited but new uses of prescreening embryos have created
an ethical debate.
Most parents dread the thought of
raising a child with a genetic or terminal disease. The use of PGD has given the opportunity to
couples receiving IVF treatments to prescreen embryos for these undesired
diseases. Thus, this results in those embryos being discarded. This sparks an ethical debate among many
people. Ethics can be defined as the
system or code of conduct and morals advocated by an individual or group. It is
also the study of acceptable conduct and moral judgement (Towsley-Cook & Young, 2007). J.F. Kilner wrote:
PGD to avoid having a ‘diseased baby’ is a classic example of identifying a
serious human problem and rushing to address it with the most easily accessible
method available rather than with a truly ethical technology (Kilner, 2006).
these genetic diseases before a child is born can be commendable; however,
choosing which embryos should survive suggests that those with genetic diseases
do not deserve to live. If PGD was being
used to begin making accommodations before the child is born, it could be
justified better. Unfortunately, it is being used to discard those embryos to
prevent dealing with a child who is diagnosed with a genetic disease. I believe those who continue to pay
institutions to practice PGD are paying to discard unwanted embryos. Instead, this money should go towards
researching ways to prevent and cure these genetic diseases. PGD has the opportunity to be used to help
correct genetic problems, but instead, it is fighting ethical battles by
discarding unwanted embryos.
New uses of PGD have also created
ethical disputes because parents can choose traits they desire for their future
child to have. Not only can you
prescreen an embryo for genetic diseases, you can also choose which traits you
would like your child to have. As a society, we instill into people’s minds
that “it is on the inside that matters most.” Now, that is not the case. Parents seeking IVF treatments can choose
nonmedical traits such as hair or eye color, height, or athleticism (Robertson,
2003). S. Jesudason asked:
messages will be programmed into women’s minds, bodies, and spirits as mothers?
… Will a woman’s worth be determined by the “perfection” of the child she
bears? … Will a girl’s worth be measured by how well she fits the gendered stereotypes
in her parents’ mind when they selected for her using MicroSort (Jesudason,
will be entering a world where parents shop for their “dream” children. Wanting
to conceive naturally, will become a concept of the past. According to Christian beliefs, it is considered
to be ethically wrong to choose the traits of your offspring, regardless of
intention. Dr. Leon Kass argues through
the deontological view “human reproduction is a gift and that any form of
selection or manipulation turns the child into a manufacture and thus impairs
human flourishing” (Robertson, 2003).
The consequentialism view argues “increasing the frequency and scope of
genetic screening of prospective children will move us toward a eugenic world
in which children are valued more for their genotype than for the inherent
characteristics, eventually ushering in a world of ‘designer’ children”
(Robertson, 2003). PGD is creating an
ethical uproar by giving parents the option to choose which traits their
children will be born with.
with most medical procedures, PGD is expensive.
As stated before, PGD precedes IVF, another expensive procedure. Couples are paying thousands of dollars for
the opportunity to potentially become pregnant.
Some couples will take out loans just to make the fantasy of bearing a
child a reality. They may not be able to
afford the prescreening of their embryos.
As technology advances, PGD will become more relevant and desired. The cost of both IVF and PGD together would
not be obtainable for the average person; therefore, only the upper class would
be able to afford the selection of their future children. S. Jesudason says:
biotech advocates envision a world of ‘genetic castes’ with the ‘GenRich’ and
‘Naturals’, where people who are wealthy enough to afford genetic modifications
will rule over those who are not modified … Will a baby’s value be determined
by the amount of money a parent can spend to ‘buy’ the screening processes and
genetic modifications (Jesudason, 2007).
the upper class having “handpicked” children, it would take away the belief
that not everyone is created equally because of the cost of IVF and PGD
together. If we allow this to take
place, the social classes will become unbalanced due to the upper class being
the only ones to afford the preselection of traits.
In conclusion, preimplantation
genetic diagnosis poses ethical concerns through the multiple discards of
unwanted embryos, the choice of choosing traits for embryos, and the social
imbalances it would create. PGD has
continued to grow since its first use. Those
who go through PGD choose which embryo best suits them. Therefore, the
remaining embryos get discarded. This raises ethical concerns because embryos,
to some, are considered human beings. The
new uses of PGD allows parents to choose the traits of their future children. This
is another ethical dilemma because it is teaching future generations that it is
what’s on the outside that matters more than the inside. It also battles Christian views who do
believe preselecting your children is unethical. Lastly, it will create a
social imbalance because only the rich will be able to afford such
procedures. Thus, only the upper class
will become dominant since they can preselect their children’s traits, while
the other classes will not have this luxury. Therefore, they will be considered
“not worthy.” These reasons are why I believe PGD is