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

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:27AM (#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 Icarus1919 (802533) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:29AM (#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 immakiku (777365) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:37AM (#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.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:49AM (#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:I don't get it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:49AM (#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".
  • I predict! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Broken scope (973885) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:56AM (#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."

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:58AM (#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 SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:02PM (#28348527)

    You are right, and I am glad that you will volunteer to be the person who has to die to prove whether or not a certain trait is hazardous to your health!

    Me on the other hand, I will accept that I am warping the evolutionary chain in the hopes that I will be able to continue living...

    The reality is that we have always been selecting and thus influencing evolution. For example why do you think women like older men? Survival of the fittest. In the old days you would have been lucky to make it to 40. If you got beyond that you were desirable since somehow your genes got you to the point where you were.

    Or how about in cave times. Only those strongest and cruelest would survive since those would be the ones who would be spreading their genes with the most people.

    Since I would most likely have died by the hand of somebody else (probably most of us on Slashdot would fit in that category) I for one approve of "meddling" with the "random" mutations.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:10PM (#28348669)

    Which is so hypocritical that it's absurd. Parents foist themselves and their children on the world and then try to persuade us that being a parent equates one to being a saint and that there is nothing more altruistic than xeroxing yourself a few times.

    Yet they can't be bothered to do the right thing and, if they absolutely must have a diaper to change or a college tuition to pay, do it for some poor parentless soul out there that truly needs it *now*.

    The hypocrisy of such people is simply astounding.

  • by extremescholar (714216) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:12PM (#28348699)
    I agree. There are also some practical considerations. My wife and I are fairly intelligent people; and I sure most slashdotters would same the same thing about themselves. We therefore have high expectations for the natural children we have. We've decided to stop having our own children (don't really want to take care of babies); but we have looked into adoption. One of the concerns I had and do get addressed in some of the adoption classes; are what to expect about children that aren't naturally yours. This included, but was not limited to, "damage" from pre-existing families/homes; realistic scholastic expectations; and the idea of "ownership". Adoption isn't for everyone.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:12PM (#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 Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:13PM (#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 @12:15PM (#28348749)

    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:I don't get it... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:24PM (#28348945)

    Intelligence is determined almost entirely (with minor variation) by heredity. If you have a very low IQ (and those with low IQs tend to breed most frequently) then your children will likely be very limited, intellectually. The same goes for a high IQ. Certain environmental factors contribute toward the maximization of whatever intellectual potential is there, but no maximization will make a bicycle perform like a speed boat.

  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:34PM (#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.

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:39PM (#28349205) Journal
    Is "natural selection" even happening anymore in humans? When we were living in caves, and a baby was born with a major physical or mental defect, that baby was not able, or even permitted, to survive. Now, due to our increased technology and compassion, we can and will keep almost any baby alive by almost any means. Not that that is a bad thing, but i am stressing that there is no real natural selection happening in humans anymore.

    We're selecting for a stronger motherhood instinct. Those that don't have it take birth control, and their lines go extinct. We're also selecting against logic and attention span. Those that have it choose education over family, and their lines go extinct. Any human characteristic that leads a person in this society to participate in "planned parenthood" is being winnowed out of our gene pool. We're selecting in favour of passionate people who have a lack of self control and rebel against the system.
  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:39PM (#28349227)

    Claiming that there simply is no god, is just as a religious statement as saying there is one. You're believing in something with no proof (the non-existence of god).

    You know, I consider myself an agnostic rather than an atheist. But it doesn't take a fundamental change of your statement to make it seem rather silly:

    Claiming that there simply are no leprechauns, is just as superstitious a statement as saying there are. You're believing in something with no proof (the non-existence of leprechauns).

    Would you also hold this statement to be true?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:42PM (#28349269)

    Someone has to mention it: Designer sex babies. We know people are going to build sexbots, porn usually wins the format wars. What would be the ethical implications if in parts of the world where prostitution is still rampant we get people ordering perfect (or what they consider perfect) babies designed to be attractive to be raised as sex slaves. It is inevitable if we let this continue.

    If you give people power they are going to abuse it, i just tried to come up with the worst abuse of the system i could. Another abuse I HATE is choosing a disabled baby because you are (ie: Genetically blind parent wants blind baby), thats barbaric to condemn a child to a limited life before they are born because you are a blind parent.

  • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:45PM (#28349309) Journal
    Tons of people don't want children [imdb.com]. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of these people are on the more intelligent/capable end of the spectrum, genetically-speaking...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:45PM (#28349317)
    As a redhead ("carrot tops with pasty white skin and too many freckles" who was "mercilessly torment during the day") can I just say....

    Damn! I was born 100 years to early! :-(

    When I look for a mate, I look for one with genes that are least likely to produce red-headed children. When I first heard about this company, I was pretty damn happy.

    Screw natural selection!
  • by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:50PM (#28349421)
    Your post reminds me of a discussion in my genetics class. We were discussing deer populations and the class had all assumed that only the biggest and strongest would pass on their genes. We were then told to not discount the sneaky little bastard who knocked up one of the does while the two big guys were fighting. :)
  • It seems to me possible that if people select their offspring intentionally based on genetic information, then we will tend to have less diversity of outcomes, which will impact evolution,

    CORRECTAMUNDO!!!

    Evolution is defined as natural selection of random mutations. It's surprising just how many geeks, who should be very familiar with what "random" means, will still advocate the idea of genetic selection and manipulation of offspring. I personally think it's from reading too many sci-fi novels in which "genetic manipulation" results in supermen or the like.

    Once our society begins selecting and/or rejecting offspring based on their genes, or we begin manipulating our genetic codes, evolution stops. We won't have moved into another kind of evolution. We won't be make our evolution more efficient. We'll have stopped evolving altogether, at least in the only way we understand the evolution of organism.

    In technical terms, we will have moved humanity from a local random search to a heuristics based local search. The difference cannot be emphasized enough. Here we have a local random search for better organisms that has delivered incredible(literally to some) results over millions of years. Yet people are proposing replacing that system with heuristics that have no other qualification other than certain people think they will lead to improvement. Genetic manipulation advocates fail Optimisation 101.

    Some will argue that parents have the right to procreate in any way they choose. But as I've advocated before, rights do not scale up. Just because it seems right that one person should be able to do something, you cannot just inductively apply that logic to the entire population. And when you grant a right, that's exactly who you grant it to. Everybody.

    I'd liken genetic manipulation to interbreeding. Some people think it should be moral to marry your cousin or even sibling. They can even make a good case for why they should be entitled to do so. But if you scaled that right up to the entire populations, we'd all end up inbred, sickly and probably mentally retarded within a hundred or so years. Genetic selection promises much the same outcome, except genetic homogeneity will occur on a population wide scale.

    Inductively scaling procreation rights up can easily lead us to a tall, trim, blue eyed, blond haired, heap of flu-ridden corpses. The very fact that this clinic offered such frivolities as eye and hair colour screening shows that this is exactly what will happen if we replace proven randomness with such vapid heuristics.

  • by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:09PM (#28349753)
    Those are spermatazoa. Technically they are not human. They only have 26 chromosomes.

    The post above yours is 100% correct. Once a human sperm penetrates a human ova and they combine DNA they become a gamete. That is a human being.

    Some may argue that it is not human because it does not look human. I argue appearance is no indicator. Look at photos of yourself as a baby, at three years old, eight years old, twenty years old, fifty years old, eighty years old, and so on. Appearance changes throughout your life cycle and cannot be used to define humanity.

    I'm not so sure about DNA either. After all, if I use DNA as a measure of humanity I must question if someone with trisomy 21 is human. After all, such a person does not have 26 pairs of chromosomes, and by such a definition would not be human. There are also super-males and super-females to take into consideration. If we use chromosomal count as the indicator of humanity, would it be OK to kill someone who does not have the proper chromosomal count?

  • by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:17PM (#28349929)
    If it were up to me, yes.

    I argue with my wife about this all the time. She thinks I'm some kind if eugenics moster. I argue otherwise. I am not trying to shape humanity. I am trying to prevent shaping.

  • The downside (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:24PM (#28350059) Journal

    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 prefered over the other.

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:26PM (#28350099) Homepage Journal

    I'd liken genetic manipulation to interbreeding. Some people think it should be moral to marry your cousin or even sibling. They can even make a good case for why they should be entitled to do so. But if you scaled that right up to the entire populations, we'd all end up inbred, sickly and probably mentally retarded within a hundred or so years. Genetic selection promises much the same outcome, except genetic homogeneity will occur on a population wide scale.

    Let's deal with facts instead of taboos. 'Inbreeding' with your cousin does not significantly increase the risk of your child having genetic defects. Marrying your cousin has only been taboo in Western countries for about the last 100 years.

    Inductively scaling procreation rights up can easily lead us to a tall, trim, blue eyed, blond haired, heap of flu-ridden corpses. The very fact that this clinic offered such frivolities as eye and hair colour screening shows that this is exactly what will happen if we replace proven randomness with such vapid heuristics.

    What exactly has randomness "proven", anyway? That people still exist? We haven't evolved some kind of godlike immunity to disease that will be unraveled by idiots paying way too much money in order to ensure that their child has blonde hair. For someone who professes such faith in randomness, you don't seem to think it has much power. Honestly, the sky will not fall if people pre-screen their babies for eye or hair color.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:54PM (#28350641)

    Adopting has many more problems which you're sugar coating over. It's obvious you have no idea what you're talking about.

    Adopting is expensive, very expensive compared to IVF. Secondly it's difficult to adopt a baby because everyone wants to do that. Thirdly if you adopt a kid who is +4 years old they're most likely going to be fucked in the head (why do you think they're in the adoption process otherwise?).

    My friend has taken care of many different children over the decades which pass through the adoption process. It's not like anything you're making it out to be.

  • Re:I don't get it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:08PM (#28350889) Homepage Journal

    Those studies are hardly conclusive.

    However I don't understand why anyone is surprised that poor people have less opportunity to learn how to think, and expand there knowledge.

    That's like this thing going around that poor people don't live as long. Nos hit? people who work in crappy conditions, and bust there bodies every day and don't have a good diet don't live as long? shocking.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:38PM (#28351321)
    Earth has been rejecting babies based on their genes for quite a while now. It's usually the retarded ones that can't breath or such. And I've heard an equal amount of FUD from people complaining that we're stopping natural selection by saving premature babies.

    But as far as stopping evolution, I'm pretty sure we're already there. We have sufficient outbreeding to stabilize the genes of the human race and inbreeding is quite the rarity. If you want to really accelerate evolutionary rate, you inbreed for freak recessive traits. We don't do that on the whole. (interbreeding? wtf?)

    And COME ON! Blue eye and blonde hair are always the examples that people give. Both of which are recessive traits of the minority. You're just spouting the fears initiated by the NAZIs and their crazy ideas. If you get one dark trait in the mix, dark will eventually dominate. Worrying that we're cutting off the genetic branch of the brown eyes is simply ignorant.

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