Embryo selection critics fear 'slippery slope'

At the heart of the controversy surrounding Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is that age old ethical terror, the "slippery slope".

The main objection to the procedure is that it opens the door to a world of nightmarish possibilities.

As technology races on, there is no telling where it will stop, say the critics.

If embryos can be selected to be free of harmful genes, they argue, who is to say they will never be screened for particular genetic traits that parents might desire or want to avoid?

Enter the "designer baby" who is destined to be top of the class, excel in sport, and have hair, eyes and other physical characteristics that fit his or her parents' wish list.

Alternatively, deaf or blind couples might want their disabilities passed on to their child. Some members of the deaf community who claim they belong to a "linguistic minority" are already campaigning for the right to have hearing-impaired children.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's decision in 2006 to allow PGD to target genes for breast, ovarian and bowel cancer intensified the "slippery slope" debate.

Critics saw this as an unwelcome slackening of the rules, a dangerous step forward down the "designer baby" road.

Cancer genes were different because, unlike other disorders screened out by PGD, they did not inevitably affect the individual carrying them. Although the risk might be quite high, there was a possibility of not developing the illness.

Also, unlike genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington's disease, these cancers could be cured if caught early enough. By permitting the selection of embryos free of cancer genes, the PGD bar had been lowered.

PGD has also ushered in the concept of "saviour siblings" - children grown from "healthy" selected embryos so that their cells can be used to treat a brother or sister with an inherited disease. For some, this practice is immoral and abhorrent.

Against these arguments is the fundamental principle that if treatments or procedures exist that can vanquish serious diseases, it is immoral not to use them.

Advocates of PGD reject the "slippery slope" fear, insisting there is no danger now or in the future of embryo selection producing a super-race of designer babies.

They say careful use of PGD has the potential to eradicate serious inherited diseases that have plagued families for generations.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

    £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Estimator

    £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas