Human Exceptionalism

Brave New Britain Strikes Again: OK to Test Embryos for Cholesterol Propensity

Brave New Britain is showing us the future of eugenic procreation unless we are very careful, the perceived right to only have children who pass health–and eventually attribute–muster. Where once pre-implatation genetic diagnosis was reserved to prevent babies from being born with terrible genetic conditions that would be immediately terminal, things are now moving toward weeding out those who would have a propensity to illness later in life. The latest “we never say no” UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) rubber stamp is to allow a couple to screen their IVF embryos for a gene that can cause heart disease in teenage or adult years. From the story:

A British couple have won the right to test embryos for a gene that leads to high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart attacks, The Times has learnt. The decision by the fertility watchdog will reopen controversy over the ethics of designer babies, as it allows doctors to screen embryos for a condition that is treatable with drugs and can be influenced by lifestyle as well as genes.

While the procedure is designed to detect a rare version of a disease called familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which often kills children before puberty, it will also identify a milder form that can be controlled by drugs and diet. Critics argue that the test will allow couples to destroy embryos that would have had a good chance of becoming children with fulfilling and reasonably healthy lives…

Its decision breaks new ground because it permits Mr Serhal to screen out not only the severe form of the condition but also the milder type, which is usually treatable.

The tragically ironic thing about all of this is that we have reached a point where we believe we are entitled to hyper control all aspects of human life. To paraphrase Lincoln: We can control some of life’s vicissitudes all of the time, or all of its vicissitudes some of the time, but we can’t control all of life’s vicissitudes all of the time. Talk about a doomed enterprise.

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