Should the government ban parents using IVF from choosing their child’s eye color? –

Zoltan Nagy / Dreamstime

Prospective parents using IVF services provided by clinics associated with the Fertility Institutes company can have their embryos tracked down for genes associated with over 400 inherited diseases, as well as sex determination and even eye colour. Despite the objections from some bioconservatives, it is now generally accepted as a reproductive freedom issue that it is ethical for parents who use assisted reproduction technologies to identify genes that pose a higher risk of inherited diseases and then select them without the implantation features.

Researchers are currently developing and deploying screening tests that take into account the interactions of hundreds of genes which increase the risk of diseases such as etherosclerosis or diabetes. the the Wall Street newspaper reports that the company Genomic Prediction has just started to offer its extended preimplantation genomic tests for these risks of polygenic diseases.

Sex selection of embryos for the purpose of avoiding inherited sex-related diseases is now, for the most part, also ethically uncontroversial. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine notes that there are no ethical consensus regarding non-medical sex selection. However, it should be noted that a 2017 survey of several hundred American IVFs clinics reported that 72.7 percent of clinics offered gender selection. And among clinics offering sex selection, 93.6% of them reported having performed gender selection for family balance and 81.2% reported having performed sex selection for elective purposes (preferably of the patient, regardless of the justification for the request).

A concern often expressed is that preimplantation sex selection will not skew the male-to-female sex ratios of the population. Admittedly, this effect has been well documented in some traditional cultures in which techniques such as gender abortions have been used to promote the birth of male children. However, there are very little evidence that such strong male preferences children exist in many industrialized countries. For example, a 2006 survey of Americans polling their views on reproductive technologies of sex selection found that 50 percent wanted a family with an equal number of boys and girls, seven percent wanted more boys than girls, six percent wanted more girls than boys, five percent wanted only boys, only four percent girls and 27 percent had no preferences.

If the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select embryos to avoid disease and to choose the sex of future children is ethical, what about other characteristics? As an example of what may soon be possible, The newspaper quote a ethical riddle posed by Stephen Hsu, a founder of Genomic Prediction.

An IVF doctor has two healthy, viable embryos and must choose which one to implant. One of them has a hypothetical risk score which indicates that the embryo is at high risk of having academic difficulties in school. The second embryo has a score indicating that the unborn child is unlikely to struggle. Do you tell parents?

“It does not seem ethically tenable to hide information from parents,” he says, “and ethically tenable to reveal it to them”.

Hsu is right: withholding information that could be relevant to a person’s reproductive decisions would clearly be unethical.

Not everyone agrees. For example, Josephine Johnston, research director at the Hastings Center Bioethics Think Tank, tells the Newspaper that she recognizes that parenting often comes with an “understandable desire to give your child advantages,” such as size or musical talent. However, allowing parents to choose among IVF embryos for such traits, she adds, “may seem terribly close to a eugenic mindset, where we thought we could sort the worthy and the fit from the unworthy and the fit. unfit. ” Further, she argues that choosing against combinations of genes that increase the risk of disease and disability, and in favor of those that confer health or psychological benefits, would risk increasing societal biases against people. who are currently disadvantaged by illnesses and disabilities through no fault of their own.

Allowing parents using IVF to test and choose combinations of genes that have a greater chance of endowing their future children with benefits such as health and academic achievement is not ethically comparable to eugenics programs mandated by the state which involuntarily sterilized some 60,000 citizens in the United States (not to mention the Nazi horrors). In fact, legally forcing them to forgo such testing is a state-mandated exercise in eugenics, as the government decides for parents what types of offspring they will be allowed to have.

But what about allowing parents to choose from IVF embryos for seemingly ancillary genetic traits like eye color? The newspaper quotes a couple who took advantage of these tests offered by a clinic of the Fertility Institute. Tests indicated that in a group of five of their embryos, one of them would be likely to have blue eyes. * The couple stressed that the eye color test is just one more thing once they’ve already started looking at an embryo to rule out disease. As it happened, the couple decided to start their family the old-fashioned way, allowing the random combination of their genes to determine the eye color of their offspring. In any case, if the screening technology is safe and effective, there is no compelling ethical reason to limit this exercise of reproductive freedom.

* Aesthetically speaking, green, hazel and brown eyes are superior, but some of my best friends endure the burden of blue eyes relentlessly.

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