Pre+Implantation+Genetic+Diagnosis - Pre-Implantation...

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Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis: Should Our Laws Allow Parents to Pre-Screen Their Children? By SHERRY F. COLB Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005 A week ago, the New York Times reported that aspiring parents of a certain age are increasingly using a relatively new screening technology to maximize their odds of having a child. The technique - called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) -- can help prevent miscarriage due to genetic anomalies. Fertility doctors employ PGD in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF), to test embryos after fertilization and select the healthiest ones for implantation in the mother. Preliminary reports suggest that this technology could spare couples the years of heartache that result from one miscarriage after another, and it may enable some who have given up hope to produce their own biological offspring. By allowing doctors to select which embryos to implant, however, PGD raises an ethical question that could ultimately become a legal question: What happens when the technique is used, not to avoid miscarriages, but to prevent couples from having abnormal children? Familiar Questions: Is Eugenic Abortion Ethical? Does It Devalue the Disabled? This ethical question is, of course, not a new one. When pregnant women undergo a standard amniocentesis, their purpose is to learn whether the child they are carrying is genetically defective in some way. Most commonly, they wish to find out whether their child has Downs Syndrome, a condition that results from a zygote's having an extra copy of the twenty-first chromosome. A positive test result frequently will lead the woman to terminate her pregnancy (indeed, that is ordinarily the purpose of having the test in the first place). In response to eugenic abortions of this sort, pro-life groups have challenged people to consider the morality of selectively terminating pregnancies involving "undesirable" fetuses. In a poster produced by Feminists for Life, for example, a physically disabled man (whose disabilities presumably result from a genetic anomaly) appears with the caption "Would you say that to my face?" The implication is that by aborting a fetus with a genetic disorder, a pregnant woman communicates an insulting and disturbing value judgment about the lives of existing children and adults who live with such disorders: that it would be better if they had never been born. PGD Versus Eugenic Abortion In some ways, PGD is a more ethical method of screening out Downs babies than the second- trimester abortions that follow a disappointing amniocentesis result. Such abortions involve the killing of a growing fetus because he or she is likely to be mentally retarded and otherwise impaired; in contrast, PGD allows parents to choose the healthiest embryos for implantation.
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Since some embryos will generally be left behind no matter what the parents' decision, and because the embryo is still a microscopic ball of undifferentiated cells at the relevant time, selective implantation seems less like a form of targeted euthanasia than does selective abortion. It may, however, be precisely the relative moral ease of PGD for the individual that raises new
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2011 for the course POLI SCI 790:395 taught by Professor Daniels during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

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Pre+Implantation+Genetic+Diagnosis - Pre-Implantation...

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