From the latest issue of h+ magazine, a look at why people are cool with eliminating diseases, but not cool with choosing eye color for their designer babies:
A January 2009 study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that an overwhelming 75% of parents would be in favor of trait selection using PGD – as long as that trait is the absence of mental retardation. A further 54% would screen their embryos for deafness, 56% for blindness, 52% for a propensity to heart disease, and 51% for a propensity to cancer. Only 10% would be willing to select embryos for better athletic ability, and 12.6% would select for greater intelligence. 52.2% of respondents said that there were no conditions for which genetic testing should never be offered, indicating widespread support for [pre-implantation genetic diagnosis]—as long as it’s for averting disease and not engineering human enhancement.
Of course, a lot of this stuff is already a done deed:
You may not know it, but gender selection based on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been available to paying couples since at least 2001. One of the world leaders in providing this service is the Fertility Institutes, with branches in Los Angeles, New York, and Guadalajara in Mexico. According to their website, they’ve had over 3,800 cases of gender selection with a 100% success rate. Besides offering gender selection, they screen embryos for genetic defects such as breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and over 70 other diseases. The Institutes are directed by Dr. Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF (in vitro fertilization) in the 1970s, and a successful scientist-businessman today.
In early February, the Fertility Institutes created enormous controversy by announcing that they planned to offer PGD services allowing for the selection of eye and hair color for children. Steinberg was quoted by the BBC as saying, “I would not say this is a dangerous road. It’s an uncharted road.” As a scientist experienced in PGD/IVF techniques, Steinberg was aware that the technology to select physical traits in humans has been available for years, but no one would touch it. “It’s time for everyone to pull their heads out of the sand,” Steinberg said.
Of course, people are also getting used to selecting traits like eye color on their Miis. It's only a matter of time before they come around on doing the same for flesh and blood babies.
Read more about designer babies here.