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"Genetic Screening Of Embryos Should Be Celebrated, Not Feared"

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#1
Vesper

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Intro

In 2009 a girl was born free of the gene that had caused breast cancer in three generations of her family on her father's side, this reignited the debate about the ethics of genetic screening of embryos. The number of genetic defects that can be screened for have increased dramatically in the last few years and scientists can now identify 15,000 potential genetic disorders through different screening processes.

Supporters of genetic screening argue that this new science will prevent babies being born with crippling diseases and debilitating illness. Opponents say that it will lead to a cult of 'designer babies' where babies are seen as a material good, treated either well or not so well on their apparent quality and that the focus on eradicating genetic anomalies devalues the lives of those who are currently living with a disability.


Genetic Screening In Context

Every year thousands of babies are born with disabilities and diseases that may lead to a difficult life for the child and it's parents, as well as possibly causing pain and an early death. Genetic screening can now test for the genes which cause these diseases and can prevent a child being born who is suffering from one. There are some who suggest that through the continual screening of embryos, certain diseases can be eradicated for good.

There are those who argue that genetic screening and manipulation is little better than eugenics (the belief that the quality of human life can be improved by discouraging those with genetic defects or undesirable qualities to reproduce, and encouraging reproduction in those who have desirable qualities). They also argue that women are under increased pressure to abort a foetus if a defect is discovered and that if we had screening in the past we may not have had many great men and women who are currently (and historical) have suffered from disabilities.



Further Reading

For

Blog by Alexandre Erler

News post by wiredscience.com

Post by spiked-science.com

Against

Feature from The Guardian

Autism feature from The Guardian

The Case Against Perfection




To Debate

1) Do you think genetic screening is ethical? If yes, why? If not, why not?

2) Do you believe that genetic screening is simply a form of eugenics, and therefore must be stopped at all cost?

3) Can eugenics ever be a good thing?

4) Do you believe that the discovery of a genetic default puts women under more pressure to abort? What are you feelings on abortion once a child is dissevered to have a genetic fault?

5) Do you believe genetic screening is dangerous, in terms of the fact that it could decrease the human gene pool?

6) Do you think that 'designer babies' will ever become a reality?



NOTE: THIS IS NOT THE ABORTION THREAD. Yes the two are closely linked (and I have asked some question about abortion) but please don't turn this into a slanging match about it. If you want to do that, take it somewhere else. This is about the ethics of genetic screening and the consequences it may or may not have. Not about the ethics of abortion.

#2
Juliette

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This came up in a debate we were having in class recently. Basically we were talking about disabilities, and it you were aware that your baby had a serious disability or illness would you get an abortion. I got the shit kicked out of me for saying yes because apparently I was saying that everyone who has a disability doesn't have the right to live, which is not AT ALL what I mean. Honestly I think it's almost wrong to bring a child into the world knowing that they're going to suffer their entire life and constantly wish they'd been born 'normal'. If we have the means of finding out these things while they're still a few week old foetus, I can only see that as a good thing. Obviously it comes down to the parents' choice but personally I would.

Eugenics seems a bit far though, that's basically saying that only 100% healthy, 'good looking' people can reproduce. In that sense you could argue that nobody has the right to have children, seeing as almost everyone has a tendency to some sort of disease, be it cancer, heart disease, whatever.

#3
Vesper

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This came up in a debate we were having in class recently. Basically we were talking about disabilities, and it you were aware that your baby had a serious disability or illness would you get an abortion. I got the shit kicked out of me for saying yes because apparently I was saying that everyone who has a disability doesn't have the right to live, which is not AT ALL what I mean. Honestly I think it's almost wrong to bring a child into the world knowing that they're going to suffer their entire life and constantly wish they'd been born 'normal'. If we have the means of finding out these things while they're still a few week old foetus, I can only see that as a good thing. Obviously it comes down to the parents' choice but personally I would.

Eugenics seems a bit far though, that's basically saying that only 100% healthy, 'good looking' people can reproduce. In that sense you could argue that nobody has the right to have children, seeing as almost everyone has a tendency to some sort of disease, be it cancer, heart disease, whatever.


Well I would be inclined to agree with you, and I would probably do it for more selfish reasons. People like to think that they'd be selfless in certain situations but when it truly comes down to it, they wouldn't be. If I found out my baby was going to have a serious disability, one where it would be dependant on me for however long it lives, I would probably choose to terminate it early. Partially due to the fact it would then not suffer, but also due to the fact that whilst I want children, would love to have children, I also want to have a life with them, to enjoy it, to have time away from them and enjoy coming back to them, for them to flourish and develop and for me to be proud of them. If you're child is severely disabled, I feel most of the time, no of that can occur.

#4
Sleeper Agent.

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i'm neutral in this topic because i have ample reasons to support both sides on this.

i don't like the idea of changing genetics on people, cause it could damage some of the qualities that make us who we are if a mistake occurs.
i like the idea to remove the cancer genes and stuff, which would be fucking amazing.
would that cause a split in society of the "perfect" and "imperfect" people due to their births?
what happens if there is a mistake?
what if it saves the world and makes brilliant medical advances in the future?

i'm kinda debating with myself, but it is indeed a really interesting topic, it will be interesting to look at this thread.

#5
Floyd Pinkerton

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I'm thinking I would be for it. If you can test to see that your child has genes that would lead to horrid diseases and checking.for them would eradicate, or help eradicate, that disease, by all means go for it.

#6
Vesper

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I'm thinking I would be for it. If you can test to see that your child has genes that would lead to horrid diseases and checking.for them would eradicate, or help eradicate, that disease, by all means go for it.


But what if this leads to the diminishment of the human gene pool.. surely that can't be good?

#7
Floyd Pinkerton

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But what if this leads to the diminishment of the human gene pool.. surely that can't be good?

Define diminishment. Everyone would look the same? Individuality would decrease?

#8
Vesper

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Define diminishment. Everyone would look the same? Individuality would decrease?


I mean that in most countries genetic familiarity is illegal. It's hard to describe because that consequence would obviously take years, I just feel that by removing certain genes entirely (even if they are bad ones) we can't be sure of the consequences in the long term.

#9
Emilie.

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My English class last semester actually revolved around this topic for a term. It was really interesting.

I guess if we could eradicate certain diseases without messing with the baby's actual appearance it would be awesome. But I don't think we'd stop at diseases, and eventually we would go on to start producing designer babies. And I'm not for that.
One of the articles made the point that it's like the abortion debate - "it's the mother's body, let her choose if she wants to pick the kid's eye colour, hair colour, etc."
But it's not her body. It's the body of her future kid. Sure, if she wants to mess around with her own appearance, all the power to her. But don't start making those choices for someone else (or a future someone else).

If this starts to become the norm, letting parents decide on their child's appearance, then our society is going to be even more fixed on perfection than we are now. People will be even more focussed on who has the better body, who's more beautiful, who has the higher IQ.
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#10
Floyd Pinkerton

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Eradicating genes that cause diseases is what I stand for here. Making designer babies and choosing how you want your child to look is what I don't stand for.

#11
Vesper

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Eradicating genes that cause diseases is what I stand for here. Making designer babies and choosing how you want your child to look is what I don't stand for.


Don't you believe that one might lead to the other?

#12
Floyd Pinkerton

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Don't you believe that one might lead to the other?

Not necessarily. Choosing to get rid of a cancer-causing gene and choosing to give your child blue eyes are totally different things.

#13
Vesper

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Not necessarily. Choosing to get rid of a cancer-causing gene and choosing to give your child blue eyes are totally different things.


I meant in terms of science and media... rather than a personal choice.

#14
Trotsky

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To Debate

1) Do you think genetic screening is ethical? If yes, why? If not, why not?

2) Do you believe that genetic screening is simply a form of eugenics, and therefore must be stopped at all cost?

3) Can eugenics ever be a good thing?

4) Do you believe that the discovery of a genetic default puts women under more pressure to abort? What are you feelings on abortion once a child is dissevered to have a genetic fault?

5) Do you believe genetic screening is dangerous, in terms of the fact that it could decrease the human gene pool?

6) Do you think that 'designer babies' will ever become a reality?


1) Yes, and I think it would be unethical for a society with the resources for it to not provide for it. Obviously I'm not going to say that it is wrong to avoid genetic screening, especially on the basis of it not being available or affordable, but I don't think it should ever be deliberately avoided on the basis of 'we don't want to know'.

2) I am not against eugenics and don't think it should be stopped.

3) If eugenics is 100% voluntary and based on actual science rather than racist pseudoscience, then yes, it's a good thing.

4) In much of the world, I think pressure more exists the other way - for women to carry the pregnancy to term. Even if the majority of pregnancies with a debilitating genetic defect were aborted, as they are in some specific diagnoses, I would still say the ones who keep them are more likely to have been pressured against their instincts and will. Remember that humans have willingly induced abortions since classical antiquity and likely before. Ancient societies like Sparta performed mercy killings on newborns which would suffer and likely not live long. Thanks to technology we can terminate the pregnancies even in the first trimester instead which is far more civilized and humane.

But more to the point, I am not going to believe that when some conditions are aborted at 99% or near 100% rates, that this is the result of pressure on women. This is a natural choice, and women don't choose to terminate a pregnancy lightly. It is a much more grave decision to keep a child who is guaranteed to die or will have a very low quality of life no matter what, with much more life-altering consequences than abortion, and if anything, more women are pressured into that.

5) Thanks to globalism, technology, and a decline in racist attitudes, human genetic diversity is now at an all time high, we have nothing to worry about in the foreseeable future.

6) Maybe they will. If purely aesthetic traits like complexion, eye color, hair color, and height are in the future engineered through gene therapy or in vitro treatments, then fine, allow it. As long as harmful traits aren't being selected, and as long as there are not unintended side effects, why not? I base my beliefs on utilitarianism, not on things I'm allegedly supposed to feel.

Not necessarily. Choosing to get rid of a cancer-causing gene and choosing to give your child blue eyes are totally different things.


Is anyone actually hurt though if a parent chooses to give their kids blue eyes? And if not, why be opposed?

#15
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There is nothing wrong with wanting to know if you are going to have a healthy child, you want the best for your child, that's human nature. A family friend has a son Adam who is 18 can't speak and is essentially has the mind and body of a 3 year old. When he hurts himself he can only scream and is 100% dependent (he can't really walk, and can't use a toilet) and needs to be watched 24/7. It just goes on and on with him, and it's so painful to see, the mother (our friend) loves him to pieces but she looks 15 years older than she is and she's just exhausted. The last time he had to go to the hospital (I can't remember what for) the doctors couldn't do much at all and they said he wouldn't survive. He did and she was so happy but the last few years we have seen her to become quite depressed. She has suffered so much from it, and so many others have in the same situation. If genetic screening could identify severe cases like this then yes I don't see it as a totally bad idea.

A problem that would arise from it is what is a severe enough case to cause such action as abortion? A case like Adam's probably would be, but what else is or isn't? In the term of Eugenics it's tricky. Actually the first President of the Eugenic society back in the day was actually Charles Darwin's son. Anyway, it kinda is a form of Eugenics (which I'm not a fan of), but it relates back to what I said before, what disorder seems severe enough to decide to get rid of that gene? It'll be ongoing for who knows how long.

And I don't think designer babies will come out of this... I hope... The idea of people designing their own children in a lab really disgusts me.

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#16
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Has anyone seen Gattaca? It's a really good movie.

#17
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Talking of movies, has anyone see the Boys from Brazil? It's a very interesting movie about this very topic...

#18
Black Dynamite

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Where to begin...Some of the response are just...nevermind :mellow:

I have a brother with a disability, and if I ever asked my mother would she have considered aborting my own brother so that she would have had an easier life for the past 25 years she would disown me. Hell i've been very sick for the past 6 months, does that mean she should have aborted me because the doctors might have spotted something at birth that would have led to me and my family having a pretty stressful time 22 years down the line. I don't think i've ever had a conversation with my brother where he told me he'd rather be dead than not be able to walk. Sure he has a harder live than most people, but he has a pretty good life at the same time, far better than that of someone who's born into poverty. Hell if you're going to start terminating babies who are guaranteed to have a low quality of life, you may as well go out to all the third world countries and start fitting women's vaginas with nooses. Stupid fuckin' idea.

Genetic screening is a crazy idea, sure it'll start off great with everyone being perfect yada yada yada. But sooner or later, as per norm, people will start to get fucking greedy. You see the slightest thing wrong with a child and you'll have some dumbass who thinks it's ok to abort the child, not for the childs sake oh no, but for their own sake.
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#19
Vesper

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Where to begin...Some of the response are just...nevermind http://www.greendaycommunity.org/public/...

I have a brother with a disability, and if I ever asked my mother would she have considered aborting my own brother so that she would have had an easier life for the past 25 years she would disown me. Hell i've been very sick for the past 6 months, does that mean she should have aborted me because the doctors might have spotted something at birth that would have led to me and my family having a pretty stressful time 22 years down the line. I don't think i've ever had a conversation with my brother where he told me he'd rather be dead than not be able to walk. Sure he has a harder live than most people, but he has a pretty good life at the same time, far better than that of someone who's born into poverty. Hell if you're going to start terminating babies who are guaranteed to have a low quality of life, you may as well go out to all the third world countries and start fitting women's vaginas with nooses. Stupid fuckin' idea.

Genetic screening is a crazy idea, sure it'll start off great with everyone being perfect yada yada yada. But sooner or later, as per norm, people will start to get fucking greedy. You see the slightest thing wrong with a child and you'll have some dumbass who thinks it's ok to abort the child, not for the childs sake oh no, but for their own sake.


I agree with the greedy part. And some other bits. Some parts though, I wholeheartedly disagree.

I know it must be difficult to look at this from a non-emotional perspective because you have a situation where you can imagine the consequences if your mother had gone through genetic screening and been given certain options. I don't think people are saying that disabled don't wish to be alive, once they're already born. You say your brother can't walk? I'm very sorry to hear that, but then imagine if he couldn't go to the toilet, get to bed, feed himself, talk, or otherwise interact due to an intense disability. Is that state of life worth the suffering of the mother and the child?

#20
Black Dynamite

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I agree with the greedy part. And some other bits. Some parts though, I wholeheartedly disagree.

I know it must be difficult to look at this from a non-emotional perspective because you have a situation where you can imagine the consequences if your mother had gone through genetic screening and been given certain options. I don't think people are saying that disabled don't wish to be alive, once they're already born. You say your brother can't walk? I'm very sorry to hear that, but then imagine if he couldn't go to the toilet, get to bed, feed himself, talk, or otherwise interact due to an intense disability. Is that state of life worth the suffering of the mother and the child?


I suppose i'm a bit too attached to this subject to have a totally clear point of view, and I do agree with you and Zero to a certain extent. But at the same time, I just can't get my head around the idea of unborn children being aborted because they're not "normal". I know where you're coming from, if you have a child you want the best for that child. But if you had one of these "perfect babies", could you honestly with a clear conscience say you'd be happy knowing you'd aborted a child on your way to giving birth to this "perfect baby". I honestly don't think I could do that, especially seeing how well my brother is doing. The "perfect" baby in my mind, is a completely different person to the baby that was aborted, so the child before that never got the chance to answer the question whether he'd prefer to live with a disability. It was the parent that decided for the child and at that point you're basically playing God, which is a very dangerous game to play.
My mother works with people with disabilities, and i've got to know some of them who have the exact same condition you describe, basically unable to do most stuff without the help of a personal assistant. Now, when I talk to them they seem happy and grateful of everything they have. Of course, there's plenty of people who probably hate the life they live, not being able to do things that the vast majority of people can. But at the same time, there's plenty of people without disabilities who don't like the life they live either. You can never predict the future, so deciding from day one that a baby should or shouldn't live is in my mind, a selfish and crazy thing to do.

#21
Trotsky

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I must try, especially as a mod, to not turn this into an abortion debate. But as far as I'm concerned, the reason doesn't matter, if the mother 'doesn't feel like it', then I still think that is as valid for having an abortion than anything else. Fetuses aren't sentient, I don't think abortion has to be justified.

#22
Lindsay

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But what about the rare cases where the child eventually overcomes their symptoms?

Like lets say for example, from this genetic screening the doctor can tell that the child is going to be autistic and won't ever be able to talk, but eventually the child does learn to talk after all? Same thing goes for other things we take for granted, such as walking. I don't know, for the most part I agree that it is cruel to bring a human into the world who's life is going to be very difficult, not only for them but also for the parent(s), but we don't always know how things are going to pan out in the end either.

#23
Black Dynamite

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I didn't mean to turn it into an abortion debate. If the person doesn't actually want the baby because of an unplanned pregnancy then I have no problem with that, but i'm assuming y'know that these fetus' have to be almost fully developed before a doctor can determine whether they have some sort of disability. In that case, the parents more than likely want the child, and to decide not to give birth to the child because of a disability is pretty damn cold in my books. That's just my opinion though. I'm not really looking at this as a debate on abortion, more of a debate on the morality of a person who could decide whether their baby should be able to live or die because of a disability. I remember reading that a huge percentage of babies that are found to have Down Syndrome are aborted in America. Now to me, that is just cold hearted. One woman learned that her baby had down syndrome and a possible heart defect, she prayed for the baby to have the heart defect. When the baby was born then, she instantly fell in love with it and realized what a horrible thing she'd prayed for. Luckily for that evil bitch(apologies for my french) the baby survived.

How many people on these forums have something that they don't like about themselves. Would you rather your parents have aborted you then let you live? If we keep going down this route of genetic screening, we'll eventually get to the point where no one will be happy with anything less than a perfect child. Luckily, I won't be around to see that day.

#24
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I mean that in most countries genetic familiarity is illegal. It's hard to describe because that consequence would obviously take years, I just feel that by removing certain genes entirely (even if they are bad ones) we can't be sure of the consequences in the long term.

I'm not entirely sure the "designer baby" thing will catch on. Sure, some people will do it, but like the gender of the child is determinable from early on, a lot of people still wait until birth to find out. A lot of people will be perfectly happy to have their child either way, and while people's looks are often down to genes so much more of it goes towards upbringing and environment. So if a very small minority want to genetically "enhance" their child, who cares? We don't have to directly deal with it, it's not our problem. Like abortion, gay marriage, all these ethical questions- if you don't want it done, don't do it.

#25
Tubbie Head

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The point of making the genetic screening is to prevent genetic abnormalities to occur, and if it's done to a significant number of embryos it will certainly decrease some awful genetic diseases!
I don't think this would lead to the "designing he baby" thing, because that's not ethical or viable, and there's no valid reason to do it (unlike the previous case) ! So it wouldn't even be approved...
The only problem to me is that these techniques are really expensive (for now at least) so it isn't possible to screen every embryo. Only for people who have the money to do so.

#26
Rosie May

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Is anyone actually hurt though if a parent chooses to give their kids blue eyes? And if not, why be opposed?


It's just so unnecessary, why can't they just live the baby as they are? Why waste loads of money on making your child look "perfect"? It interferring with nature too much in my opinion. It may not "hurt" them in any obvious way, but I think creates indirect problems for society if this kind of practise became common. There would be the "designer babies" of the people rich enough to afford them, and then the "normal" babies of everyone else. I think life would become far too much like a sci fi movie if people start altering everything about their unborn children just because they can.

Genetic screening is a crazy idea, sure it'll start off great with everyone being perfect yada yada yada. But sooner or later, as per norm, people will start to get fucking greedy. You see the slightest thing wrong with a child and you'll have some dumbass who thinks it's ok to abort the child, not for the childs sake oh no, but for their own sake.


This completely. I don't think people could ever do something like this with a few people taking it way too far.
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#27
alaniluau

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Has anyone seen Gattaca? It's a really good movie.

I watched this in a science class in secondary school. I agree that it was a well done film, and it also brought up the ethical questions in this debate.

I'm for the genetic screening of embryos. The world is so incredibly overpopulated that bringing any child into the world violates my beliefs. More abortions would be better for the world, diseased fetus or not.

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Floyd Pinkerton

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It's just so unnecessary, why can't they just live the baby as they are? Why waste loads of money on making your child look "perfect"? It interferring with nature too much in my opinion. It may not "hurt" them in any obvious way, but I think creates indirect problems for society if this kind of practise became common. There would be the "designer babies" of the people rich enough to afford them, and then the "normal" babies of everyone else. I think life would become far too much like a sci fi movie if people start altering everything about their unborn children just because they can.


This completely. I don't think people could ever do something like this with a few people taking it way too far.

This exactly.
I'm okay with it if we're helping cure diseases. I'm not okay with it once we get to a point where abortions increase drastically simply because, God forbid, a child has the trait for blonde hair instead of red.

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colour_me_stupid_

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This exactly.
I'm okay with it if we're helping cure diseases. I'm not okay with it once we get to a point where abortions increase drastically simply because, God forbid, a child has the trait for blonde hair instead of red.


In that scenario, nine times out of ten it'll be the other way around :P

Having read everyone's replies, I think I'm just a little bit more against it than I am in support of it. Sure, if was used to detect and get rid of things like cancer, leukemia (Did I spell that right?) etc, it'd be great. But where is the line gonna be drawn? Will a line even be drawn at all? I agree with Yvonne, we'd end up in a sci-fi movie if it was let progress far enough. I believe medical research will eventually find a cure for such diseases, and when they do, who's to say that a way of preventing it from happening at all wont be discovered?

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But what about the rare cases where the child eventually overcomes their symptoms?

Like lets say for example, from this genetic screening the doctor can tell that the child is going to be autistic and won't ever be able to talk, but eventually the child does learn to talk after all? Same thing goes for other things we take for granted, such as walking. I don't know, for the most part I agree that it is cruel to bring a human into the world who's life is going to be very difficult, not only for them but also for the parent(s), but we don't always know how things are going to pan out in the end either.


Autism isn't quite the genetic defect I'm getting at. Lot's of people have autism, we have medicine to deal with it, and lots of geniuses have been born with autism. I'm talking more about severe down syndrome, a hole in the heart, huntington's disease and many others that are literally life-sentences.

The question is though, where is that line drawn?



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