BIO: Eugenics outcry over new DNA test

Doug Bailey (
Tue, 1 Dec 1998 9:09:11 -0500

"A new test which could identify abnormal embryos before they
are used in infertility treatment has been condemned as an example of eugenics in action."

These type of situations appear to be the big battlegrounds between those who champion "natural" development of embryos versus the willful modification of embryos by parents or others. Does an embryo have the right to develop based on its genetic inheritance or can others decide to alter the embryo's genetic makeup to correct perceived deficiencies? The situation above is easier to defend, i.e. handicaps, those still subject to scrutiny. But the potential of designing embryos to eradicate undesirable traits such as eye color, skin color, intelligence quotient potential, physiological potential, gender, etc. is much more problematic to defend due to the inherent subjectivity involved in the screening process.

Many of the complications arise from the idea that a sovereign living entity (the original embryo) serves as the canvas for the genetic changes that are wrought upon it without its permission. This objection melts away in an environment where the genetic traits are selected and the embryo is
"assembled" from these selections. There is no entity that is "violated"
as eugenics-proponents might assert otherwise. Thus, while the cries of eugenics might temporarily obstruct the practice of designer embryos, they will have to take a less rational Luddite stance to halt the embryo-from-scratch kits of the future.

Doug Bailey