Letter: 'Designer' babies: false concerns, researchers' arrogance, threat to life

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Sir: Kenan Malik is right to emphasise that a black woman giving birth to a white baby is no different from a blue-eyed woman giving birth to a green-eyed child ('Children of a confused society', 3 January). The only reason there is such an unprecedented fuss over the two black women concerned is because of the spurious issue of race.

A similar charge of hypocrisy can be levelled at bodies such as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for banning the sex selection of an embryo by potential parents, given they may act upon the 'stereotype' that having a boy is preferable (the exception is on medical grounds, for example a sex-linked disease). The Government, the HFEA and the British Medical Association ethics committee are busy inventing concerns about the 'psychological well-being' of something that does not yet even exist, as an excuse to lord it over prospective parents and regulate who is and is not suitable for parenthood.

The claim that 'designer' babies will lead to eugenics is unfounded and irrational. At present 'designer' babies do not exist - human genetic technology is insufficient to manipulate genes, let alone pick and mix. The application of genetics to the field of medicine currently amounts to little more than egg implantation and screening for a handful of defective genes. Francis Galton described eugenics as a programme to 'check the birth rate of the unfit and improving the race'. To have any chance of creating a genetic shift in the population at large, a policy would have to be systematically imposed by an authority.

Of the 13,000 infertility treatments carried out in the UK each year, only 14 per cent succeed. Even if all these people chose boys, there would be little impact on the demographic composition. Given the present repressive climate of ever-increasing regulations and controls, discussions about deserving and undeserving healthcare patients, and arguments that some people are unfit to be parents (such as the 'underclass' and single mothers), it is far more likely that any new form of eugenics will be implemented by the powers that be, rather than individual parents choosing the sex of their child, whatever motivates their decision.

Yours faithfully,


London, E8

3 January