Genetic testing seems to be a taboo topic that no one really discusses and with good reason, like religion, parenting or politics, you can never be sure that you won’t be offending someone by your views. For couples trying to conceive through IVF who have a history of genetic defects, I completely understand that genetic testing is a must. For others, not so much. But recently, a medical ethicist has thrown a spanner in the works when he came out and said genetic testing is a moral obligation for parents. From The Verge:
Oxford medical ethicist Julian Savulescu has called screening out negative traits in embryos not just desirable but a “moral obligation” for parents. In an upcoming issue of Reader’s Digest, Professor Savulescu will present his case that “trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting,” and that when it comes to screening out “personality flaws” like alcoholism, psychopathy, and a propensity for violence, “you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children. They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others.”
“If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should,” Savulescu says in The Telegraph.
When I think of genetic testing, I can’t help but be reminded of the 1997 film, Gattaca, which I was made to watch in year 11. For those unfamiliar, it is a science fiction film set in the future where all children are genetically modified to be the best versions of their parents they can be. While I can understand the reasoning behind this, I don’t feel that it is necessary to form a productive society. The problem is that when you start to head down this road of genetic testing, it can become difficult to know when to stop.
Will it get to the point where we start to filter out all the genetic “defects” that contribute to the exceptional? If mental illness were to be filtered out, would we miss out on the great masterpieces that come from it like those of Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch? Beethoven became deaf later in his life, if we had “screened” him out, we would have missed out on his wonderful symphonies. It is our many variations and differences that make the human race so imperfectly perfect. If the world were full of only the exceptional, no one would be exceptional and there would be no room for the variances that make life interesting.
There is a difference between genetic testing out of necessity and playing God, and I feel what Julian Savulescu is suggesting is playing God. And just I’m not sure I can agree with that. How can you even genetically test an embryo to see if it has personality flaws? Is he suggesting we terminate every pregnancy in which there are potential genetic flaws? Where do you draw the line? When does genetic testing then lead to deciding that you only want a blonde child or one with brown eyes? When does it stop being sensible and start being dangerously close to designer babies?
Where do you stand when it comes to genetic testing? Do you think it’s a moral obligation? Or is it messing with nature?
Monique Fischle has written 98 posts.
22 year old communications assistant with a love of books, movies, music, ASOS and all things celebrity! I blog over at ‘the musings of monique’ and tweet quite frequently @moniquefischle.
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