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Biotech Medicine

Fertility Clinic Bows To Pressure, Nixes Eye- and Hair-Color Screening 847

Posted by timothy
from the gets-pretty-creepy-doesn't-it? dept.
destinyland writes "A fertility service in L.A. and New York screens embryos for breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and 70 other diseases — and lets couples pick the sex of their babies. But when their pre-implantation diagnostic services began including the baby's eye and hair color, even the Pope objected — and the Great Designer Baby Controversy began. '[W]e cannot escape the fact that science is moving forward,' the fertility service explained — before capitulating to pressure to eliminate the eye and hair color screenings."
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Fertility Clinic Bows To Pressure, Nixes Eye- and Hair-Color Screening

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:26AM (#28348041)

    It's when fertility clinics start to offer to change the hair or eye color (or other traits) of a baby to be.

    I guess I'm just old fashioned.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:44AM (#28348269)
      If the human race goes extinct, it certainly won't be because we didn't reproduce enough. So really, what's the point of fertility clinics? As in, why don't people just adopt the already-existing baby that meets whatever "criteria" they have instead of doing all of this?
      • by ThePlague (30616) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:50AM (#28348351)

        Because that wouldn't be propagating ones own genes.

        • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:12AM (#28348705) Homepage Journal

          You mean the same genes that are making it really hard for you to have children?

          Let's think about this for a moment....

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:02AM (#28348525) Journal

      It's when fertility clinics start to offer to change the hair or eye color (or other traits) of a baby to be.

      That's what bugs you? Because that's what they are doing... except much less efficiently. The clinic will create, say, a dozen embryos, and then test each of them -- the ones with the undesirable traits are then offed, and the good ones implanted. Sure, it reeks of eugenics more than a little bit.

      But I think it's a little odd that you don't mind the eugenics, but you do mind the efficient process to make the eugenics work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zoips (576749)
        What's fundamentally wrong with eugenics? Yes, all past real world examples of it have been faulty and mostly driven by arbitrary and invalid criteria (skin color, eye color, unfounded belief in the superiority/weakness of some ethnic group, etc). However, that doesn't seem to point to anything fundamentally wrong with eugenics if done properly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rs79 (71822)

      That's such a delta thing to do. Sheesh.

  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:27AM (#28348055) Homepage Journal
    What's wrong with trying to get the eye color or hair color you want? What is the difference with that and picking the sex?

    I mean, if you can get just the kid you want...why not? What are the objections? Hell, when they can start letting you pick if you kid is going to be smart and/or athletic...are they gonna can that choice too?

    • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:44AM (#28348277)

      What's wrong with trying to get the eye color or hair color you want? What is the difference with that and picking the sex?

      I'm not sure I get it either. As a subsequent poster points out, it's screening, not "designing". Couples are choosing among existing embryos.

      Screening has been going on for millions of years. Humans have always been able to choose their mates based on visible criteria like hair color, eye color, athletic ability, etc. Why is screening acceptable for invisible traits (like propensity for cancer and other genetic predispositions), but not for visible traits?

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:49AM (#28348337) Homepage Journal

      skin color and such to come down the pike.

      Of course, if they could prove that sexual preference is genetic I believe we will see some real outrage with "We can guarantee your baby will NOT be gay"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Problem with saying sexual preference is genetic is then I can say being stupid is genetic, and therefor it's not my fault I can't test well, it's just my genetic code. Please send me a government check paid by the people who with genetic code to be smart. I can't help myself.

        While we are not all the same, we all have a choice, and our society seems eager to shirk that consequences of that responsibility while retaining the benefits.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          How does that have anything to do with the GP's post? He wasn't arguing one way or another on the basis of sexuality, he was giving a hypothetical. Last I checked, homosexuals are not asking for government handouts, at least, not more than the complement population.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "I believe we will see some real outrage with "We can guarantee your baby will NOT be gay"

        Really?

        I doubt seriously that you'd see any 'outrage' expressed at all. At least, not in the US. Being gay isn't exactly that popular, and still carries a pretty heavy stigma in society. Attitudes have come a long way, sure, but, it isn't accepted by the general public...especially not in private conversations amongst straight people. They may state one thing to be PC in public, but what they say out of the spotligh

    • Re:I don't get it... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:49AM (#28348339) Homepage Journal
      Hell, when they can start letting you pick if you kid is going to be smart and/or athletic...are they gonna can that choice too?

      Most likely, it reminds people of at least one country where the government wanted a specific type of person.* That, and if someone didn't like the eye/hair color, they would destroy the blob of cells which some people consider to be a person. And we all know the Pope's stand on this subject.

      As far as picking the sex, there are numerous countries where a male child is wanted and if it's a girl, it is killed or sold. This of course has a distinct downside. See this story [cbsnews.com] for tidbits of the situation.

      *Funny how those who suffered the most are now demanding their own country be person specific with no "mixed blood".
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:06AM (#28348603)
      From what I understand, the principal objection of many people who are opposed to this sort of selection is that otherwise viable fertilized embryos, which do not meet the selection criteria, are discarded during the process. So, depending upon how one answers the "when does life begin?" question and the views one takes on the related issue of Abortion this sort of selection and discarding is either a choice like many others that parents make or murder; take your pick.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daem0n1x (748565)

      I'm not sure if this is just silly or borderline nazi, but I don't like it.

      I made my children the usual way, by fucking and waiting. And they look like me. And I like them the way they are. Sure, they have their quirks, but who doesn't?

      If you can't breed children, adopt some. There's no lack of children in the planet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thevacancy (970985)
        I don't think your sentiment was intended as insensitive, but the pain of not being able to bare one's own children is a deep and crushing pain. This pain is why people spend thousands of dollars to try to have their own? It's simplistic to write off the urge to procreate as a silly selfish thing (if it were we'd all not be here.) Adoption is NOT an easy process and can be much more expensive that in vitro fertilization. International adoptions can be even more heartbreakingly complex and expensive. Su
    • The downside (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)

      What's wrong with trying to get the eye color or hair color you want?

      There is a big downside: loss of genetic diversity. Having as wide a gene pool as possible is a very good idea if you want a species to survive the next serious pandemic. Limiting diversity for sensible reasons (like no genetic diseases) is fine because there is a clear, obvious benefit. Limiting diversity because you want your baby to have blue eyes and blonde hair is not because there is no real benefit. Choosing a baby's gender is even worse since it can lead to sever social problems if one sex is prefe

  • lawsuit (Score:5, Funny)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:29AM (#28348075)

    Would you have been able to sue them if your baby had blond hair when you wanted a brunette?

    "No honey, of course mommy and daddy love you just the way you are... never mind the settlement we got because your hair color is wrong. It paid for all this dye!"

  • by Icarus1919 (802533) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:29AM (#28348081)
    On the one hand, this is pre-implantation and thus does not require the abortion of a fetus - no harm no foul, right?. One the other hand, it could easily be argued that one is playing god when you begin screening embryos for superficial traits.

    Of course, if you choose to make the second argument, then one would also be playing god when embryos are screened for diseases, and thus should be disallowed as well.
    • by svendsen (1029716) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:33AM (#28348127)
      I'd go even further and say any medical procedure, drug, etc. could be considered playing god. Sorry Timmy you got TB and are going to die, yes we could give you some pills to save you but that is playing god.

      Personally I don't want some religion to tell me what medical procedures I can/cannot have because they think their holy book would approve/disapprove.
      • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:13AM (#28348729) Homepage Journal

        What if its a government book that states you cannot have procedure X because you don't requirements Y, or Z? Or, you can have it, but not until political grouping A and B have sufficient opportunities first?

        Religion or bureaucracy, does it really matter if the end result is the same?

        The difference between religious and government rules is that the later is enforced at the point of a gun

      • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:28AM (#28349017)

        I'd go even further and say any medical procedure, drug, etc. could be considered playing god. Sorry Timmy you got TB and are going to die, yes we could give you some pills to save you but that is playing god.

        Personally I don't want some religion to tell me what medical procedures I can/cannot have because they think their holy book would approve/disapprove.

        Yawn, bringing up medical procedures and drugs is a straw man here. The issue the crazy religious folk have with this is one of life. When you administer the TB drug, you are not stopping life. When you fail to implant a fertilized egg, that is a life that was created that will never become a human being.

        It's a slippery slope. If it's ok to determine whether the life lives or dies when it doesn't have a brain, then maybe it's ok to determine whether it lives or dies when it has a brain but isn't on the same level of consciousness as us (partial birth abortion, AKA murdering the baby before it's halfway out of the mother in the birthing process [-1 flamebait/troll/overrated for saying that right there!]), and so then maybe it's ok to determine whether a life lives or it dies if the majority say its future is not worth keeping it alive (forced euthanasia); and finally then it's ok for me to determine whether something lives or it dies simply because that is how I prefer it and after all I know what is better for it.

        If you don't value life from the start, then you cannot somehow place more value on that life as it matures without being either inconsistent, or elitist, or both. The societal implications of not valuing the full life are drastic, and it is for our own conscience's good (and the future of our world) if we choose to value life through and through.

    • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:38AM (#28348205) Homepage Journal

      Except there is no god, so you can't play him. Once more, religion gets in the way of science.
      Imagine all the advances in science and medicine if we could get religion out of the way.

      • by Synchis (191050) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:54AM (#28348401) Homepage Journal

        This really doesn't seem to be about religion to me.

        I have 2 children. I love them dearly, and would never change anything about them. Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me. Why not just grow them in a test tube?

        Hell, why not just make baby farms as described in the Matrix? If we're going to take the gamble out of genetics, whats left for us?

        As far as "Playing god" or whatever name you want to give it, "God" in this instance does not neccesarily refer to any given diety, but simply refers to the unknown force that normally determines the traits of your child.

        I believe that there are forces in this world that we do not understand, that we should not understand, and that we should not meddle with because we don't understand them. Whether the decry came from the pope himself, or some guy living on the streets in new york, the message is still the same. By letting people choose their babies traits, we are taking away something that is profound.

        When my first child was born, the first thing the nurse said to me was "Her eyes are brown... that never happens". I would not trade that moment for anything in the world.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by plague3106 (71849)

          Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me.

          Hmm... I wonder if you would be as thrilled when the child pops out with Downs or some other genetic disease.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "Part of the thrill of parenting, is the gamble about what kind of child you will end up with. To be able to choose the traits of your children, seems to make it all a bit superficial to me. Why not just grow them in a test tube?"

          So, I would be wrong to choose to be superficial? Is growing babies in test tubes or on farms an inherrantly bad thing? For one, it would probably increase the rate of child survival and decrease the pain and serious health risk of giving birth.

          "I believe that there are forces in

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:58AM (#28348471) Homepage

        Except there is no god, so you can't play him.

        Nonsense. By acting as a god, you play god, even if you don't think any gods exist. You can play Satan too if you wished to. Or Sauron for that matter. The absence of a real god just means there's nobody to strike you down in the afterlife for your hubris.

        There is still a valuable ethical lesson to take away from the concept. Even atheist scientists can recognize this. The point is, we are not omniscient, and messing with things we don't fully understand can have disastrous consequences. The humility "don't play god" suggests you should have should also inspire caution and careful consideration of what you are doing, and this is a good thing.

        Imagine all the advances in science and medicine if we could get religion out of the way.

        Is religion blocking science all around the world, or is the minor but present advances made by other countries while the U.S. turned away from science in the last decade supposed to be so impressive that it is clear religion is leading us back to the dark ages?

        • by RDW (41497) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:26AM (#28349001)

          'By acting as a god, you play god, even if you don't think any gods exist. You can play Satan too if you wished to. Or Sauron for that matter.'

          At least you can always tell when the parents have played Sauron ('The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat's, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing' - this is never a good look, and little Pharazon will be mercilessly bullied at school). Don't even ask about the hair colour...

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chris Burke (6130)

            At least you can always tell when the parents have played Sauron ('The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat's, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing' - this is never a good look, and little Pharazon will be mercilessly bullied at school).

            I wouldn't worry about that. Personally I was able to avoid a lot of bullying by seeming just crazy enough that I might snap. Give me eyes with pupils that open on a pit to nothing, and I co

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by RDW (41497)

              'But on the other hand, some women like the dark and dangerous type.'

              I guess the popularity of the whole 'Twilight' might work in your favour. On the other hand, any budding Dark Lord would probably have to work on his dating skills ('Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark then any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor' - not exactly dinner and a movie, is it?).

      • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:00AM (#28348491) Journal

        Once more, religion gets in the way of science. Imagine all the advances in science and medicine if we could get religion out of the way.

        Historically speaking, the Church (Galileo notwithstanding!) and Islam during the medieval period played a very large part in encouraging the development of science, medicine, and the arts. It varied by time period and region, but the link can't be denied.

        Second, one thing that confuses me about these sorts of statements is this - presumably, you think religion is just some nonsense that stupid people latch on to. But even if you get rid of religion, people are still going to be stupid. What makes you think that these stupid people won't find something else to latch on to that has the same sort of negative effects as religion? In fact, getting rid of religion might leave a vacuum that could be filled by something worse...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gtall (79522)

          "Historically speaking, the Church (Galileo notwithstanding!) and Islam during the medieval period played a very large part in encouraging the development of science, medicine, and the arts."

          The problem with this statement is that it makes it seem as though the point of religion was the development of science, medicine, and the arts. It wasn't. That development was a by-product of education which at that time was centered in religion merely because religion was the most organized social institution. I think

    • Problem solved (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NotQuiteReal (608241)
      Just screen out the religion gene while you are at it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gerafix (1028986)
      Oh please, "playing god" my ass. Screening for certain traits is as much "playing god" as having sex is "playing god." Artificial selection is not "playing god." This is completely within the bounds of the physical world, there is no magic here. Religious bullshit should be left in churches, and shouldn't interfere with scientific endeavours. And no it's not relevant even from a moral standpoint since religion has proved itself to be the utmost in immorality and perversion Humans have ever come up with. Or
  • by nasor (690345) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:32AM (#28348105)
    There seems to me to be a difference between "designing" a baby with genetic engineering or some such vs. simply screening a bunch of fertilized eggs and selecting the one you want. But of course, if the media called it "screening" rather than "designing," people wouldn't get nearly as worked up about it - and they know this, so they go with the more provocative language.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      I don't think "designer" in this context is supposed to imply how you get the custom-made baby; I don't think it's that technical. I think it's more intended in a fashion sense, like "designer jeans". The implication is that it is something well-off families will do in order to get the "right" kind of baby, rather than grabbing something off the rack at the thrift store and settling for what you get.

      Whether you modify the genes of a single embryo to get red hair and blue eyes, or select from thousands of

  • and is unfortunately still prevalent in india, china, and korea, and immigrant communities from india, china, and korea

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/nyregion/15babies.html [nytimes.com]

    they should outlaw sex selection. an absolutely disgusting practice

    • by immakiku (777365) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:37AM (#28348189)
      Actually outlawing sex selection doesn't solve the problem. Allowing it might lead to a more humane situation than what is currently going on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)
      No, they should make it easy to do at the embryo stage so we don't get people leaving live babies to die in the dumpster.
  • by Audiophyle (593650) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:38AM (#28348195)
    Do they allow you choose whether the baby will have red irises, pre-painted black fingernails, a perm that needs no hair spray, and "Whitesnake" pre-tattooed on its chest?
  • by keytoe (91531) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:43AM (#28348263) Homepage

    Well, I've always wondered where the line would be drawn, and it's apparently at eye and hair color. To sum up, designing a baby to be resistant to over 70 diseases is cool - and designing a baby to be a particular sex is also cool. But choosing hair color or eye color, that goes to far.

    If someone didn't draw the line for me, I'd never know where it goes. I've never been good at placing arbitrary restrictions on things I don't understand, so thank God for the Pope.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Don't be deceived by the summary. The Pope doesn't approve of destroying embryos because they have diseases (or predispositions to diseases) or because of their sex, either. "But when their pre-implantation diagnostic services began including the baby's eye and hair color, even the Pope objected" is highly misleading regarding the Pope's line-drawing on this subject.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by somersault (912633)

      From TFA:

      The backlash was widespread. Quoted in the New York Daily News on February 23, the Pope himself condemned the âoeobsessive search for the perfect child.â The pontiff complained, âoeA new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity.â The roman Catholic Church objects to all applications of PGD because they invariably involve the destruction of blastocysts.

      He objects to the disease resistance and sex choosing too, so mentioning him in the summary makes no sense IMO. I don't think Popes are usually known for their liberal viewpoints. An equally as pointless but slightly more sensible line would have been "The Pope objects, as usual".

  • by Radtastic (671622) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:49AM (#28348333)
    Yes, there may not be any holding back the tide, but genetic "screening", "designing", or whatever you want to call it has a real danger of helping create even more of a class-based society, this one even more difficult for individuals to breach.

    Keep in mind this procedure will only available to those who can afford it.

    Want to grow up to become an athlete? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to select genes that predispose you to becoming tall / strong / better cardiovascular function.

    Want to grow up to become a model? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to give you a slender physique, blond, and blue eyes.

    Want health insurance? Sure, but it's going to be more expensive because your parents couldn't afford to eliminate your risk of ALS.

    The challenging part is that yeah, if I have the choice to prevent my future kids from developing life-shortening diseases, I've got to do it.

    Tough ethical choices ahead of us, imho.
    • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:12PM (#28349813) Journal
      >The challenging part is that yeah, if I have the choice to prevent my future kids from developing life-shortening diseases, I've got to do it.

      So that's the problem, then, isn't it: what counts as life-shortening diseases?
      There's a correlation between being left-handed and dying of accidents. So you'd want to select for a right-handed kid.
      There's a correlation between height and income: tall people make more. There's a correlation between income and average lifespan. So you'd want to have a tall right-handed kid.
      You can see where this is going: if you want to, you can justify almost any selection criterion as being life-extending, or at least life-enhancing.
      There's no good line to draw.
    • Want to grow up to become an athlete? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to select genes that predispose you to becoming tall / strong / better cardiovascular function.
      Want to grow up to become a model? Sorry, your parents couldn't afford to give you a slender physique, blond, and blue eyes.

      Those are a really poor examples. Even if you give a child those attributes they may not have the dexterity or will to really perform in sports. By the time you kid grows up blond/blue eyed models may be as common a

  • I predict! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Broken scope (973885) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:56AM (#28348451) Homepage

    This and its more controlled forms would last for two or three generations tops. Eventually people will get pissed off enough to realize that its idiotic to let someones parents choose their child's looks based on what the popular culture of their parents finds beautiful and attractive, with no regard for the fact that none of the kids will be able to meet the criteria of beauty in their own popular culture. It will be like the quest for super thinness and super buffness times ten. Several generations with no selfesteem.

    Someone is gonna go, "guys, seriously this isn't working, and we are all ugly too boot."

  • The POPE ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2obvious4u (871996) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:56AM (#28348453)

    I don't understand the Pope's objection. The body is nothing more than a meat machine that holds the soul. If we have the technology to improve the machine that houses the soul, what is the problem? Jesus Christ. The disciples fixed the broken machine all the time in the new testament, back then it was called a miracle. Now we have the technology to improve the lives of all future children it would be a crime not to remove genetic diseases. Why does the church insist on allowing unnecessary suffering just so that they can provide comfort to the person who is suffering? Wouldn't it be better to eradicate the suffering in the first place?

  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:34AM (#28349109)

    But when their pre-implantation diagnostic services began including the baby's eye and hair color, even the Pope objected

    I'm pretty sure the Pope was objecting the entire time. Last year, they even made it official company policy [vatican.va] that IVF=abortion.

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