Page 3 Profile: Robert Winston, Fertility Expert

 

Katie Grant
Monday 05 May 2014 20:54
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Million-dollar baby?

The IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston has warned that a growing market for fertility treatments could “threaten our humanity”. He fears that wealthy people will be able to pay for so-called ‘designer babies’, with characteristics tailored to parents’ wishes.

What the worst that could happen?

The fertility expert has told fellow academics at a conference at the University of Kent: “We have been carried away with massive enthusiasms in reproduction”. The 73-year-old professor of Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London added: “That mixture of enthusiasm and patient desperation is actually a very toxic and heady mixture. One of the issues of the market is that rich people may well be able to afford, in due course, the kind of enhancement to their genetics that other poor people may not be able to afford.” Lord Winston urged professionals in the field to consider “standing back a little” from the technologies that they employ.

Could a real-life Gattaca be on the cards?

As far-fetched as it sounds, the Labour peer has signalled that a resurgence in eugenics is conceivable and said there is a “real risk that we could see that kind of attitude in our humanity occurring again”. In the future, he claimed, the rich may be able to pay to have babies with enhanced intelligence, musical ability and strength. He added we could “end up with a society where some people may actually have something that might threaten our humanity”.

Somebody stop this army of Doctor Frankensteins immediately!

It sounds terrifying but other experts have argued it’s all just a storm in a test-tube. Doctor Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society, has said: “The law prohibits it, even if it was technically possible.” He also insisted that parents are not interested in enhancing their babies’ genes: “Most infertile couples are desperate for a baby, rather than a specific type of baby, and I don’t see that changing,” he said.

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