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Eugenics, Contemporary


Articles

The Population Control Holocaust

Spring 2012Robert Zubrin reveals the international campaign of coerced sterilization and abortion

The Global War Against Baby Girls

Fall 2011Nicholas Eberstadt on the mounting casualties of sex-selective abortion

Unchosen Lives

Summer 2009Caitrin Nicol on Jodi Picoult’s tales at the threshold

Disability Politics

Liberals, Conservatives, and the Disability-Rights Movement

Spring 2009Ari Ne’eman

Sterile Thinking

Winter 2007

Faces Disappearing

The Implications of Cystic Fibrosis Screening

Summer 2007Richard W. Sams II

The Real Meaning of Genetics

Summer 2005Eric Cohen on the false fears and genuine dilemmas of modern genetics

Eugenics—Sacred and Profane

Summer 2003Christine Rosen on Orthodox matchmakers, IVF clinics, and genetic testing

Chinese Bioethics?

“Voluntary” Eugenics and the Prospects for Reform

Spring 2003

Oh, Behave!

Britain’s Nuffield Council Weighs in on Behavioral Genetics

Spring 2003

 

Blog Posts

ART in the News

A new test for Down syndrome, frozen embryo laws, and more

October 10, 2008

ART in the News

Gaybies, Afterdeath Children, the 66 Club, and more

September 15, 2008

Two Articles of Note

September 9, 2008

Single men are hearing their biological clock ticking. And they’re not waiting for Mrs. (or Mr.) Right:

Daniel E. Gurr, a doctor in Miami, had always wanted a baby. The yearning lasted through his 30s and early 40s, through medical school and into his residency. That longing created tension; he and his longtime boyfriend, he said, fought each time the subject came up.

At 46, Dr. Gurr, who is settled in his job but now unattached, is finally fulfilling his wish. Next month, through a surrogate, he will become the single parent of a baby boy.

“I’ve always felt that I wanted fatherhood to be a part of my life,” he said. “It’s just a core part of who I’ve always been. I absolutely would want a partner, but I couldn’t let my life wait for that random event.”

In other news, parents of disabled children look to Sarah Palin as an advocate:

Many in the disability community said they hoped Trig Palin’s appearance at the convention would lead to greater public acceptance of his condition. “Why shouldn’t she have him there? There’s nothing to hide,” said Connie Hutzel of Mason, Ohio, whose son Carson, 11 years old, has Down syndrome.

 

ART in the News

Y-guys, the loneliest kind of infertility, Dara Torres, and more

September 2, 2008

Which Baby Do You Want?

July 22, 2008

Nature says don't worry about "designer babies." Not so fast, says Daniel MacArthur, a blogger at the excellent site Genetic Future:

[I]t's safe to say that there will be no perfect baby. Instead, the prospective parents will face a tough choice between embryo A, who will likely be tall, slim, smart and cancer-free but have a higher-than-average chance of bipolar, early-onset dementia, and infertility; embryo B, who will be a little shorter, dark-haired, probably fairly gregarious, resistant to coronary artery disease, susceptible to bowel cancer, hypertension and early deafness; embryo C, who will be of average intelligence, unlikely to suffer premature baldness, prone to mild obesity and diabetes, but not at a high risk of any of the other major common diseases; and embryos D-N, who present a similar panel of competing probabilities.

...The parents-to-be will sit down together with dossiers listing a huge set of statistical predictions for each of their potential children, and make a decision as to which (if any) of these abstract collections of traits and risks they wish to bring into this world. Decisions don't get much more emotionally traumatic than this: not only will they be making a decision that will shape their own lives and that of their future offspring, parents will carry a new, extra burden of responsibility for the fate of their children. If they decide on embryo A, and their child goes on to develop severe bipolar disease, they will carry the guilt of that decision in addition to the trauma of the disease itself.

That's not to say that embryo selection is unworkable — in fact, I think it's inevitable — but rather that this process is likely to require a degree of agonising trade-offs on the part of parents-to-be that is seldom fully appreciated. While I have no moral problem with the notion of embryo selection, part of me is glad that my child-bearing years are likely to be over before I have the chance to face this particular dilemma...

Eugenics Watch: I, For One, Welcome Our New Genetic Overlords

July 7, 2008

What happens, if after pre-genetic screening, no unaffected embryos are found? Should they be transferred? And if so, who gets to decide?

That's the subject of a talk by Dr. Wybo Dondorp, a senior research fellow at the Department of Health, Ethics and Society at Maastricht University (The Netherlands), at the 24th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona. If you read this Reuters article, you might think that the patients get to decide about the disposition of their affected embryos. You'd also be wrong.

According to Dr. Dondorp, decision-making about affected embryos must be "shared" between parents and doctor--except, that is, when the doctor disagrees with the parents. Then, the doctor gets to decide that it's not in the interest of the future child to be born:

"The present consensus is that where the classical indications for PGD are concerned, doctors should, as a general rule, not transfer affected embryos where no non-affected ones are available.

[...] The welfare of the child is closely connected to the classical indication for PGD: a serious disease caused by a single gene mutation for which there are no, or limited, treatments, and, in most cases, presenting early in life. An example is an embryo that is homozygous for cystic fibrosis, where the child will definitely have the disease. In such cases it is inconceivable that doctors would agree to transfer these embryos as it would be at odds with their professional responsibilities.

[...] It must be made clear that there may be, with conditions, room for shared decision-making about transferring affected embryos. But that does not amount to leaving it to the parents, as doctors cannot avoid their professional responsibility for the welfare of the future child."

Just to be clear, people with cystic fibrosis can live into "their 30s, 40s, and beyond." But no, their lives aren't worth living! For now, Dr. Dondorp hasn't yet ruled on the fates of people with genes for hereditary cancers or other chronic conditions. Those will be decided by a "case-sensitive evaluation of aspects relevant to the 'high risk of serious harm' criterion." Again, not by you, the potential parent!

So what if your doctor decides you shouldn't transfer your embryos? Dr. Dondorp has some helpful advice: 

In pre-test counselling it should be explained that if no non-affected embryos are available, the only options are trying a new cycle or being advised to reconsider one's reproductive plans such as refraining from reproduction, using donor eggs or sperm, or adoption.

But don't worry, the doctors won't immediately dismiss your views about the fate of your embryos. They'll pretend to listen first, and then do whatever they've already decided on. 

"Parental requests for transferring affected embryos should not be dismissed beforehand as a sign of irresponsible capriciousness. As the couple's primary wish may be for a child, they may reason that if a non-affected, healthy child is not what they can get, they will also be happy with, and good parents for, a child with a condition they at first intended to avoid. Respect for autonomy at least requires taking such requests seriously, even if, in view of all other considerations, doctors decide not agree to the requests."

The "Wrong" Sexual Orientation?

June 18, 2008

A terrific article by Will Saletan on the coming "chemical wars" over sexual orientation:

Last year, Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote: "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use." Mohler told the Associated Press that morally, this would be no different from curing fetal blindness or any other "medical problem." Rev. Joseph Fessio, editor of the press that publishes the Pope's work, agreed: "Same-sex activity is considered disordered. If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb ... that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science."

If the idea of chemically suppressing homosexuality in the womb horrifies you, I have bad news: You won't be in the room when it happens. Parents control medical decisions, and surveys indicate that the vast majority of them would be upset to learn that their child was gay. Already, millions are screening embryos and fetuses to eliminate those of the "wrong" sex. Do you think they won't screen for the "wrong" sexual orientation, too?

I'd be curious to hear what the "eugenics? what eugenics?" brigade has to say about this. Razib at Gene Expression notes an important caveat.

Ross Douthat's prescient post on the future of homosexuality is well-worth reading too.

ART in the News

Million-dollar babies, embryo adoption, and more

June 16, 2008

ART in the News

A Phony War on Science, Different Takes on Older Moms, etc.

May 8, 2008