Should Parents Be Allowed To Know Their Fetus Will Get Alzheimer's?

The moral case for designer babies



Should prospective parents seek information about gene variants that increase the risk that their children will develop diseases that manifest themselves when they are adults? Should physicians give the information to them? Some bioethicists believe that such testing is wrong, arguing that such information could stigmatize the child and that it may suggest that people with genetic illness predispositions should never have been born. They further argue that children have a right to an "open future" in which they are not burdened with the knowledge of their genetic predispositions for adult onset illnesses.

Consider the situation of Amanda and Bradley Kalinsky, as reported on the front page of The New York Times. Amanda Kalinsky tested positive for the gene that produces Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker (GSS) disease, a form of early onset dementia. Several family members, including her father, had already succumbed to the disease. When she found out that she was a carrier, she initially vowed never to have children. Amanda and her husband learned, however, that they could use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of their embryos to avoid passing along the gene to their kids. Fertility clinic specialists induced her to produce several eggs that were removed and then fertilized with her husband's sperm. The resulting embryos were tested for the GSS gene, and only those which did not have it were implanted her womb. The happy result is that the Kalinskys are the parents of three children that have been spared the prospect of suffering the disease that is likely to kill their mother.

In the Times article, the Yeshiva University bioethicist David Wasserman argues that discarding embryos with that carry deleterious adult onset disease genes is essentially saying that someone like Amanda Kalinsky should never have been born. But decisions about who should be born ought not to be in the hands of ethicists; they should be left up to the people whose lives and values are actually on the line. For Kalinsky, the fact that any of the children she might bear through conventional reproduction could inherit the deleterious GSS gene was a bad enough possible outcome for her to decide never to reproduce. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis enabled her and her husband to have children like her but without the prospect of suffering the disease. Either way, the child with the GSS gene was not going to be born; this way, someone still got to be born anyway.

The Kalinskys knew exactly what heritable disease they wanted their prospective children to avoid. Now a new, much more comprehensive whole genome screening test enables researchers and physicians to identify disease risks in developing fetuses that parents might not be aware of, such as genes increasing the possibility of breast cancer or Alzheimer's disease. The new test sequences a fetus' genome based on DNA it sheds into its mother's bloodstream. So researchers can now reveal genetic predispositions ranging from trivial characteristics like hair and eye color and propensity to baldness to the risk of diabetes and cancer.

Is it ethical for physicians to sequence a fetus' genome and then tell parents what the genetic screening test uncovers? Yes, argues Ignatia B. Van den Veyver of Baylor College in the current issue of Prenatal Diagnosis. Among other arguments, Van den Veyver correctly notes that withholding prenatal genetic testing information thwarts the autonomy of parents to make reproductive decisions. With regard to whether such genetic knowledge impair a child's right to an open future, Van den Veyver ponders "whether we infringe autonomy by shielding information that may allow parents and young adults to make decisions about their future that take into consideration all aspects of their current or future health."

Similarly, in the January 16 New England Journal of Medicine, Ilana Yurkiewicz of Harvard Medical School, Lisa Soleymani Lehmann of Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Bruce Korf of the University of Alabama at Birmingham argue that it is ethical to provide parents with prenatal whole genome sequencing information about their prospective children. They write that it is "a basic right of reproductive choice and parental autonomy; people may choose when, with whom, and how to reproduce, and they have the right to data that may inform these decisions." The trio also notes that women in the United States do not have to provide a reason for obtaining an abortion, so it is "difficult to justify restricting abortion in the case of a well-defined reason, such as genetic disease."

They also reject the notion that genetic ignorance is somehow liberating. "Instead of limiting a child's potential future, knowledge of genetic risks can offer a greater opportunity to inform possibilities for a good life," they point out. And that's the essential point: Whatever some bioethicists might believe, autonomy is never enhanced by ignorance.

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  1. Autonomy is never enhanced by ignorance. Goes right to the heart of the argument.

    1. Unless they choose to remain ignorance.

      1. Uh…ignorant. (Got to proofread more.)

    2. It would be unethical NOT to let parents know if the information was available.

      Really, stupid question.

  2. I didn’t RTFA but I want wings and gills regardless the moral implications. I will now RTFA.

      1. Don’t rub it in!

        /runs off sobbing

    1. Symbiont phototrophs. The calciferous kind, so they can continually regenerate my teeth and bones as well as feeding me.

      1. Just curious PFW, but is your handle a reference to frying a penis for consumption.

        1. it’s a reference to fried chicken. some impressive reading-into there though.

          1. Mmmmm..fried chicken. Is Wylie slang for chicken? I’ve been reading it as willy.

  3. Some bioethicists believe that such testing is wrong

    Of course they do. If it weren’t for pearl-clutching, “bioethicists” wouldn’t have a job. It’s possibly the most bullshit “job”/title ever bestowed.

    1. It will be popular, it will be lucrative, it will stir emotions, of course gubmint will want a piece of the action.

    2. I whole heartily agree. They freaking ruin every future show with “well somebody, somewhere could misuse this technology.”

    3. Bioethicists are essentially people positioning themselves to be a TOP.MAN. when the future arrives.

      Nobody argued that the phone, radio, cell phone, and internet should be shot in the crib because only the rich would have access to it to improve their lives.

      But because most people are unimaginative about gene markers and biological manipulation (whereas the above list are essentially conduits for communication and easy to understand), they just decide fear should fill the vacuum of their ignorance.

  4. Bailey may regret this if, in 20 years we live in a society populated by 7 foot giants, males having three foot dongs and women with three foot boobs.

    1. What’s the problem?

      1. The problem dumbass, is that we will hollw out the Earth trying to mine enough rubber for those gigantic, free Obamacare condoms.

        1. Do you really think we mine latex like it comes out of the ground?

          1. +1 Science Smackdown

      2. The problem dumbass, is that we will hollw out the Earth trying to mine enough rubber for those gigantic, free Obamacare condoms.

        1. Who’s the dumbass now, ya double posting dumbass?

          1. I can’t help it, its genetic.

          2. I can’t help it, its genetic.

          3. “Well, double dumbass on you!”

            1. You mean the profanity? That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.

              1. +1 colorful metaphor

          4. That’s just his 3 foot dong typing exactly what the other head is thinking. We haven’t yet separated the sentience of one from the other. Is it redundant? Is it imperfect?

            Yes, but the technology just isn’t there yet, damnit!

          5. Who’s the dumbass now, ya double posting dumbass?

            He offered the world disorder!

      3. I’m not really threatened by the whole “you’ll never be able to compete with genetically superior people” thing. It’s not like over night they will take over. It would be a phasing in over time. For the poor kids born just ahead of this tech it is no different than now with slower kids competing with bright kids, just the term average shifts.

        1. For some reason bioethicists don’t think healthier and smarter people actually ADD anything at all to society. Unless they become bioethicists.

          1. I don’t know what would happen if the average IQ jumped 50 points but I have a hard time believing it would be negative. Intelligent people on average seem to be less violent and more productive. Not that they owe me any part of their productivity, but I would enjoy the option of buying the fruit of their ideas.

            /please be a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range

            1. Given that IQ is a largely bullshit statistical measure, it probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot.

              1. Replace IQ with whatever measurement of intelligence you please.

                1. Replace IQ with whatever measurement of intelligence you please.

                  It wouldn’t matter. Politics is largely outside of what is or isn’t intelligent, and there are plenty of political stooges who are otherwise intelligent in every way.

            2. But what if parents are convinced to throw all of their stat points into EIQ instead of straight IQ and we end up with a bunch of hyper-manipulative children with the most intense case of the feels EV4R!

              1. Then the quality of actors would improve?

                1. True, but imagine the future politicians. blech.

                  1. If they really felt our pain maybe they would leave us the fuck alone.

            3. Contrary to his public persona Stalin was very well read in multiple languages.

          2. “bioethicists don’t think healthier and smarter people actually ADD anything at all to society”

            The problem is not smarts because there is no guarantee that smart people are more moral. I think that is the relevant point.

            I would fear being taken over by masses of high IQ people who had bad intentions. Being smart does not equate to leaving people alone.

        2. you’ll never be able to compete with genetically superior people

          That argument also relies on the completely false and morally dubious proposition that beggaring my neighbor makes me better off.

          Easy way to test it:

          Would I be better off if the entire population other than me was transformed instantly into paraplegic mongoloids? If not, why not? After all, think of how my competitive position would be enhanced!

          1. you’ll never be able to compete with genetically superior people

            That argument also ignores the fact that people already exhibit a range of genetic (dis)advantage yet seem to compete well enough to survive (if not thrive) and continue their genes.

          2. It’d be easier for you get a date, at least.

      4. I’m pushing for something like this.…..phaFNV.png
        It will be easier for my grandchildren to survive and thrive in the glow-ball warming/climate change Wasteland.

    2. You mean three three foot boobs, obviously.

      1. You see! Already out of control.

    3. a society populated by 7 foot giants

      Go back a couple hundred years and the world of today would be considered a world populated by giants.

      Also I think boobs would get more perky and their nipples more pink before they get 3 feet long.

      1. You’ll shoot your eye out kid.

    4. Bailey may regret this if, in 20 years we live in a society populated by 7 foot giants, males having three foot dongs and women with three foot boobs.

      This is commonly referred to as the SteveSmithalarity

    5. 3-foot dongs are over-rated. You don’t really use them that often and what if you have to take a crap? It just drags in the water.

      1. And you would pass out from low blood pressure with every erection.

    6. I don’t find foot boobs, no matter how many, a turn on. But that’s just me.

      1. Never fear. Psychologists have known how to create fetishes in laboratory environments for generations.

      2. And don’t even get me started on foot dongs.

        1. Did I mention his four nuts
          Well he also had four dicks
          If you took of his boot you’d see the dicks growing of his feet
          I heard that motherf*cker had like thirty goddamn dicks
          He once held the hand of one of his opponent’s wife’s hand in a jar of acid at a party

    7. Three boobs on each foot?

  5. Either way, the child with the GSS gene was not going to be born; this way, someone still got to be born anyway.

    “All babies want to get borned!”

    1. +1 Boysenberry condom

  6. And how many embryos were murdered for the Kalinskys to have their master race offspring?

    1. As many as want need to.

  7. Designer babies are one more step along the road to me having an army of Episiarch clones.

    1. Just remember that technically he is a gastropod, so adjust the embryonic tank fluid accordingly.

  8. Who doesn’t want a super-smart, super-strong three-year old? Nothing like having him rip your face off, chimp-style, when you won’t let him wear his under-roos as his only clothes when it is -3 outside.

    1. Wait a minute, shouldn’t you be opposed to this? After all, with state run health care isn’t this going to lead to doctors trying to talk patients into euthanizing their embryos that would need expensive care?

      1. Oh look, Blue Tulpa here to tell me what I believe. Thanks, I got it.

        1. I am not telling you, just pointing out that your ‘logic’ on the other thread about child euthanization applies here as well. But if you would like to run to the ‘Blue Tulpa’ dodge you have heard others make, feel free.

          1. If you believe metaphysical life starts at conception, then you should be against this. Ideally, it would be better to be able to analyze eggs and sperm for these problems.

            1. You are right, but I was referring to Brett’s tired, yet common among paleolibertarians, argument that we cannot allow any form of euthanasia or assisted suicide because ‘with government health care the doctors will just push people into getting rid of any loved one that is going to cost the state money for expensive treatments.’ That applies here as well as it did in the earlier thread about terminally ill children. If the state is going to push people for these reasons and in this way then they will push for this testing and elimination of embryo’s that would have complicated, expensive deliveries and treatments, so, the logic goes, we should restrict it (or allow current restrictions to stand).

        2. He’s not trolling, he’s very stupid. Be nice to the lil’ guy.

          1. Oh, here comes the fellow for whom college=virginity. The great thing about cliques (and the sadder ‘online community’ versions) is you do not even have to know what anyone is talking about to take sides.

            On the earlier thread Brett L. objected to Belgium withdrawing criminalization of certain options to euthanize terminally ill and suffering children on the tired paleo grounds of ‘but with the state involved in health care the doctors will push people to euthanize to decrease the state’s health care costs!’

            Well that applies here just as well. If Brett has not followed the statist areas his logic takes him, do not get mad at me for pointing it out. And he’s likely a grown man who does not need someone jumping in to help him.

    2. Nature would select for parents who would acquiesce to their demonchild’s every frivolous desire. Or should I say, continue to select.

    3. You’re thinking of Warty.

    4. Duh. You just have Pickles the Cat babysit him.

    5. The kids operator manual says he’s good down to -50C, so let him wear the underoos.

  9. I love the phrasing of the title too: “should parents be allowed“. Man, isn’t the presumption that people have to ask permission to do anything fun?

    1. Careful, Epi. Bo will tell you you’re not really a libertarian if you take issue when the State generously permits you to do something you should be free to do without asking permission, so long as you petition and receive their blessing.

      1. Hey Epi, Bo is picking on me, isn’t that Bo crazy telling people what they believe?

        What are you, twelve?

        You do realize your ‘distinction’ is down right sad, since at one time (and currently under several recently proposed laws), creating embryos and then discarding them was a forbidden thing just as euthanasia of terminally ill children in Belgium was until that law passed.

        1. And, as we learned in that recent Kansas case where the sperm donor was hauled into court for child support, IVF is something that can only be engaged in with the state’s permission and oversight.

        2. What are you, twelve?


          Oh, Bo. You’re the best. Tell us more about how mature you are.

          1. I have to wonder what kind of adult interactions you have where it is considered normal for someone, when challenged about their logic, to run up to someone else they barely know, but knows they do not like the challenger, and says ‘hey, it’s so and so picking on me, can you believe so and so?’

            Maybe the same adult groups for whom college was a great dry spell of intercourse?

            1. Maybe the same adult groups for whom college was a great dry spell of intercourse?

              What are you, 12?

              1. I am referring to a previous exchange with Warty where, upon hearing that I was in college, said ‘college, so you’re a virgin!’ as his rebuttal of some argument I was making. I found it highly ironic that in engaging in a juvenile joke about sex he seemed to exhibit that for him college years was something he equated with virginity.

                1. Tell us more about how you’re totally not a virgin, Bo. I’m almost convinced.

                  1. Of course I am a virgin Warty, after all, in your experience aren’t all college students virgins?

                    This is too rich.

                2. Dude, if you’re in college, that’s not good.

                  I was a huge dork in college, but I’d like to think if I went back TODAY, I would not be spending a lot of time arguing with middle-aged guys about libertarianism online.

                  I think perhaps Warty accused you of being a virgin not just because you’re in college, but because you’re in college and you’re talking to us instead of stalking one or more 19 year old girls.

                  “Esq”. LOL.

                  1. I would not argue that you were not a huge dork in college. But more to the point, it may have been a while since you were in college (law school, btw, means people around 22-26 years old for ‘traditional students’, no 19 year olds), but the young people today spend a fair amount of time on the internetz and with members of the opposite sex.

      2. He’s really getting worked up, Brett. You should give him a time out and a juice box if he behaves.

        1. Look at how immature you are. How cliquish. It’s like high school in here.

          1. If you don’t pipe down, Warty, I’m going to jam you into a locker.

          2. Maybe it is just like college Warty. You know, where no one gets any sex!

      1. Its getting out of hand hand.

        1. Maybe you need to take a break.

    2. Really.

      “Should Parents Be Allowed To Know Their Fetus Will Get Alzheimer’s?”

      Well who’s fucking fetus is it anyway ?

      The Village’s ?

    3. Oftentimes folks forget that even if the West puts their bioethicists in charge (Top Men!) of this question, there are lots of places where different folks will be in charge.

      So something more like “Should American parents be allowed to create designer babies to compete in a world filled with the offspring of Chinese couples who are being forced to have their babies customized?”

      It hardly matters what we decide is right on a question like this. Eventually, refusing to genetically modify our children will be as harmful as refusing to teach them math.

      1. So Stephen Hawking’s mom should have aborted him, and we’d all be better off, because he wasn’t genetically sufficient for this Utopia? The Scitzo from a Beautiful Mind would be gone. Have a genetic tendency toward alcoholism? Lets weed that out. No more Hemmingways. Have a genetic tendency toward drug addiction? Lets get rid of that. No more Elvis. Fat people? Gone. No more Pavarati. What a lovely society of nothings you have here. Genetically perfect and completely uninteresting.

        1. How did it get from “should parents be allowed” to “let’s weed that out!” Who the hell is US?

  10. “The resulting embryos were tested for the GSS gene, and only those which did not have it were implanted her womb. The happy result”

    Happy result? But what about the embryoez!?! Bailey is a cosmotarian! Cocktail parties!

  11. But decisions about who should be born ought not to be in the hands of ethicists; they should be left up to the people whose lives and values are actually on the line.

    But Ron, what role would bioethicists have if they did not use their wisdom to impose diktats on the huddled, humping masses of proles? Sometimes I don’t think you think things through particularly carefully.

    This designer-baby moral panic is an exercise in drawing arbitrary technological lines. Anyone who’s worn a rubber, popped an Ovril, or even chosen the mother/father of their children via non-arbitrary means has participated in the designer-baby phenomenon. It’s a not particularly interesting variant of GMO pearl clutching with special pleading re: human relationships on the side.

  12. Here’s a pretty simple ethical rule for these guys to memorize:

    It’s never ethical for YOU to deliberately conceal information about a situation that involves ME from ME.

    See how easy that is?

    1. It’s never ethical for YOU to deliberately conceal information about a situation that involves ME from ME.

      Never is a little extreme. Suppose you didn’t want that information?

      1. I wouldn’t go to the geneticist for the test in the first place?

        1. Two things:

          1) You missed the point of the article. This is prenatal genetic testing, it’s like the child is consenting to have there genes sequenced, someone is extracting that information out of them and storing it regardless of whether they want it or not.

          2) How do you feel about mandatory GMO labels?

          1. 1) Arguing this out properly will make this an abortion thread, which I don’t want to do.

            2) The ingredients in the food don’t become a “situation that concerns me” until after I buy the food. If I feel like there’s not enough information available, I can just not buy it.

            This is more like declaring that after I buy food, I shouldn’t be allowed to test it to see if it’s GMO, because that would negatively impact (insert absurd and irrelevant social goal here).

            1. But the thing is, you can’t test the genes of a child until after it’s conceived.

              1. In the article, they’re talking about unimplanted embryos. That’s what makes it difficult to proceed down the line in your point #1 without making it an abortion thread.

                But let’s look at a scenario where the testing is done via amniocentesis:

                1. Parents do amniocentesis to find out if fetus has Down’s.

                2. The fetus doesn’t have Down’s. Yay!

                3. Additional genetic testing shows that child will be predisposed to a certain type of cancer.

                4. Parents only cared about Down’s, so the fetus is brought to term. Yay!

                5. Child grows up and is 16. Parents know about cancer predisposition.

                6. Is it ethical to withhold the information from the child? I don’t see how it can be.

                You might say, “I want to decide what to know about myself!” and that’s fine. You might say, “When my parents start this conversation with me, I want them to not tell me anything if I say I don’t want to know!” and that’s also fine.

                What isn’t fine is banning testing so you don’t have to make that decision or have that conversation. Because that’s making the decision for everyone. It might be ethical for you to decide that YOU don’t want the information. But it’s not ethical for you to decide that I shouldn’t get it, either.

                1. Actually the situation were talking about is more like:

                  1. Parents do amniocentesis to find out if fetus has Down’s.

                  2. The fetus doesn’t have Down’s. Yay!

                  3. Additional genetic testing shows that child will be predisposed to a certain type of cancer.

                  4. Parents only cared about Down’s, so the doctors decline to tell the parents because the bioethicists tell them it would be unethical for the parents to make a decision whether to carry the pregnancy to term based on this information.

                  5. Child grows up and is 16. Child gets cancer and dies horribly and painfully.

          2. No I missed the point of your question. Supposing someone doesn’t want that information, why would they be pursuing it with prenatal genetic testing? I guess if the testing was a mandatory part of prenatal care. Then doctors would just have another question to ask along with “do you want to know the sex?”

            Regarding consent, parents already dictate consent for their children.

            Though I fail to see the connection to the topic at hand, aside from the word “genetic”, I don’t have a position on GMO labeling. I think beyond basic health&safety; (“MADE IN A FACTORY THAT ALSO PROCESSES PEANUTS”, and fat/protein/carb quantities for dietary management), labeling in general should just be held to the fraud-is-not-acceptable standard.

    2. Fluffy, your categorical rule is incorrect.

      Lots of parents-to-be do not want their doctor to tell them the sex of their baby even though the information is available from ultrasound imaging.

      The rule’s formulation must be such that it is generally contingent upon whether I want to know and am willing to expend the resources to find out some particular form of information.

      But the rule’s formulation must allow for exceptions that allow disclosure of unwanted information under particular circumstances. There are certain areas of knowledge in which the specialist’s knowledge is so vastly superior to his client’s that the client’s opinion should be considered irrelevant. The client’s decision is then not whether he wants disclosure, but whether to engage a particular specialist. The specialist’s obligation is to be truthful regarding his own policy regarding disclosure of sensitive information. I can then determine whether I want to engage a specialist, and have information necessary to select one whose disclosure policies are in keeping with my values and preferences.

      Of course, this all academic. Under Big G’s health care system, bureaucrats mandate a one-size-fits-all disclosure policy.

  13. The problem with bioethicists is they look at a movie like Gattaca and say “See there is the problem with genetic engineeering” completely missing the fact that the problem was not the gulf between the genetically engineered and the natural born but the fact that the natural born were treated as second class citizens both culturally and legally.

    While your alt text is correct, even in today’s world Ethan Hawke would never have had a chance in hell of getting onto that mission to mars because he quite clearly did have a heart condition and not just a genetic predisposition to one he also would not have been systematically been denied the opportunity to ever be more than a janitor and he would have had every opportunity to put the obvious intelligence and drive the character had to good use in other less physically demanding endeavors.

    1. The problem with bioethicists is that they’re basing their real life opinions ON A FUCKING MOVIE.

      Robotic automation is bad for society, I mean, cmon, Transformers.

      1. Bumblebee is ok. He can’t talk plus he morphs into a cool car.

      2. The movie was actually based on a novel that was based on the bioethics of genetic engineering a society. You know that smart phone you are using? BASED ON A FUCKING MOVIE. Writers are smarter than you.

    2. The ethics debate came before the movie. Who do you think they consulted before writing the movie? HELLO?

  14. So you are gay and you are selecting embryos with your partner.

    Do you select an embryo with gay genes or one without?

    1. Do you get to make up your own mind? That’s what counts.

    2. With, obviously. You want the kid to keep his room clean, be busy with drama club after school, and get a good job in Hollywood or the NFL. Throw some black and native american dna in there too so he’ll get into better schools.

      1. Just one drop?

    3. No preference. I’m sure plenty of people would opt for the gay gene though. I’d really want to leave as much up to chance as possible, but I have no interest in passing on a long family history of digestive and thyroid problems (which I may have dodged anyway).

      1. gay

        digestive problems

        There’s a joke to be made here somewhere…

        1. Didn’t an army chaplain or something make it just the other day?

          1. I’ve met exactly one Army Chaplain who could even attempt to tell a joke…

            1. You mean besides the sermons?

            2. Oh, I was joking about former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt (reading a possibly fraudulent press release from other former chaplains…the provenance or it is a bit confusing):

              But homosexuality is a combat divider, dividing one’s reason to live while taking breaks on the combat field to change diapers all because their treacherous sin causes them to lose control of their bowels

              The whole fun is a delightfully 1950s “BEWARE THE HOMOSEXUAL MENACE” kind of read. But I hope everyone involved dies a painful death related to their personal vices that they believe are ok.

              1. He’s right. Why do you think Philip was able to defeat the Sacred Band? Poop flying everywhere, that’s why.

                1. Don’t forget the forced baby-fucking. It’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything when you’re being forced to fuck babies constantly:

                  Before civilizations crumble, the last thing to hit the fan is government-sponsored, government-forced, homosexuality, sodomy, and pedophilia.

                  All so that “the perverts, the pedophiles, and the psychiatrically ill–feel better about themselves.”

                  Also I SF’d the link

    4. I wonder if there is a gay gene. Seems like if most people choose to get their genome mapped and are willing to share their sexual orientation it would be possible to run an algorithm to identify it.

      1. 23andme is trying to have your back on that.

        While our researchers did not find ? nor did they expect to find ? a “gay gene” or even a genetic variant that has a strong association with homosexuality, they did find some interesting routes of inquiry.

        More than 24,000 customers have participated in the study so far, reflecting the high level of interest in the topic


        While we found some gene regions where associations were suggestive, we did not find any that reached a statistical threshold of genome-wide statistical significance. We believe that as the number of people participating in the study increases ? customers can fill out the survey here ? the role of the currently suggestive genetic associations may become clearer.

        1. Interesting. I wonder if they would sandbag their results to avoid any controversy.

          1. Not them, I should think they would trumpet it to increase sales, yes?

            1. I guess so. They do claim it was a topic of interest to many subscribers.

      2. I don’t think there is a gay gene but rather much more likely a combination of genetic traits that make it more or less possible for one to be sexually attracted to members of the same sex and the level of that attraction is then defined by life experiences.

        1. I would also think culture would play a large role as well.

          1. I don’t think it would play as large a role as you think it does. People still pick male embryos over female ones, even in this culture. If you think they wouldn’t pick a straight male over a gay male, I think you are kidding yourself about how much influence ‘culture’ has. This isn’t Iran, India or China, but we still abort many more female babies than males.

        2. That’s generally where I stand from casual reading on the topic although Sidd Finch has informed me that I’m dead wrong in past threads.

        3. Exactly. “Born that way” excludes human free will for the sake of a politically convenient lie.

          1. I don’t see how free will is relevant. I think it is obvious that most people are genetically disposed to being attracted to the opposite sex. After all, the essential function of sexual desire is to ensure that reproduction happens. So if a gay gene means that free will is excluded, then no one has free will when it comes to sexuality.

            I really think that free will is a much less interesting and complicated thing than most people seem to think. If I decide to do something and I am not physically constrained from doing it, I can do it. That is free will. We are genetically predisposed to all kind of preferences. That doesn’t mean that free will doesn’t apply.

      3. No one asks if foot fetishists are born with a foot fetish gene. I don’t understand why so many people feel this need for gay people’s existence to be explained by science. Some dudes like feet, some dudes like yoga pants, some dudes like dicks, some dudes like 4 or 5 dicks slapping them in the face simultaneously.

        1. You have no idea how hard it is getting 4 or 5 guys synchronized like that

        2. I don’t think it matters at all. People should do what they want whether or not they are genetically programmed to do so.

          But I can understand why people would be interested anyway.

      4. I’m bi and i’m attracted to scents put off by both the same and opposite sexes.

    5. Suppose you have one embryo with Tay-Sachs disease, another with Down’s Syndrome, a third one with a predisposition to Schzophrenia, and a fourth one with the gay gene.

      Which one do you pick?
      I’m pretty sure Down Syndrome and Tay-Sachs are out.

      Personally I think gay beats risk-of-Schzophrenia by a mile.

      1. Make more embryos. Problem solved.

        1. Cause it’s so easy for infertile couples to come up with healthy eggs and sperm?

          There are lots of cases where there are chromasonal abnormalities and you end up not having a single good embryo on a batch. So you have to go do the whole process over again, at significant expense.

          I don’t know many couples who would forgo implanting an otherwise health baby just because it had a gay gene.

          1. You have people picking a boy over a girl and you think they wouldn’t forgo implanting just because of a ‘gay’ gene? You are an optimist, that’s for sure. And you called it a baby, not an embryo.

  15. Can my designer babies have the crazy mitochondria from Parasite Eve!?

    It’s important to me that they can cause those around them to burst into flames. It’s a hard world out there and they deserve every advantage possible.

    1. If you had said “midi-chlorians”, I was going to scream.

  16. I actually agree with Epi’s assessment about bioethicists, but if you think political opposition is going to come from mainly from that corner you would be ignoring the several ton SoCon in the room.

    1. I see opposition coming from both sides. SoCons on one side, and on the other, not just bioethicists, but many left-wingers in general who feel that genetic engineering isn’t “fair.” I recently had a conversation with a left-leaning friend (he’s for most part pretty reasonable, and not totally morphed into left-wing orthodoxy. For example, he opposes most of the welfare state and thinks a lot of the SJW stuff is BS) who was afraid that genetic engineering would create separate, mostly permanent, classes of citizens, with the middle and lower classes having no chance to compete with the rich.

      1. True. Genetic engineering would only be available to the wealthy. Children could be engineered to be superior physically and mentally. This would mean the gap between rich and poor would widen. Currently, rich people can also have kids that screw their lives up.

        1. All technology gets cheaper over time. At first it would only be available to the rich but it would filter down to everyone eventually.

        2. Genetic engineering would only be available to the wealthy.

          And that selective availability would last about as long as the availability of cell phones and LCD screens.

          Genetic engineers live in the same market as everyone else.

          Sell to the riches life with the masses, sell to the masses live with the riches.

          1. It’s even more than that.

            If intelligence contributes to financial success (even if only a little bit), then the wealthy will have less of a boost from these techniques than the rest of us.

            Cheap genetic engineering could end up being a huge equalizing force.

            1. Cheap genetic engineering could end up being a huge equalizing force.

              Honestly it is pretty hard to come up with technological advance in the past 100 years or so that has not been an equalizing force.

              I think the left should be forced to do more then hand wave when arguing against technological advance.

              There should be a law. Not like a law that can put one in jail but like the law of gravity.

              If you break it you better have a damn good scientific explanation why and how you are breaking it.

        3. It’s not like genetic engineering is going allow the super-rich to breed offspring with superpowers. The state-of-the-art is sex selection and deselection of offspring who are prone to various sorts of genetic maladies.

          Even if the super-rich conspired to breed some sort of Aryan ubermensch, their breeding program wouldn’t hold a candle to the success that public school system and the welfare state already have in assuring that poor people stay poor.

        4. DarrenM,

          “Currently, rich people can also have kids that screw their lives up.”

          You are making an assumption that physically and mentally superior people are not as inclined to screw up lives.

          Physically and mentally superior people by no means have better morals. Morals are the key to screwing or enhancing lives.

          Thus, without identifying a “nice” or “ethical” gene, the rich would still have the same problems as they do now with children – perhaps even more. A physically and mentally superior person who is not ethical could be a psychopath….lots of harm done there.

      2. That may be the sentiment, but what kind of political organization and clout would leftist bioethicists have, as opposed to the religious right?

        1. As I said, I’m not merely talking about bioethicists. I think a lot of average, mainstream leftists would oppose it for the reasons I described. Do such people not have powerful political organizations to use to advance their views?

          1. That is a fair question, but I tend to think people like professors and pundits have a lot less influence than traditional interest group organizations. If unions or trial lawyers were upset about this then I think you would be correct, but I do not see that happening.

            1. Um, Unions would be screaming bloody murder about this.

              They’d view the coming age of genetically engineered supermen as being even worse than robotics

              1. I think it more likely the only union position on it would be that unionization of the doctors, nurses and other medical staff involved in the procedure.

            2. Do organized anti-GMO groups count?

      3. Two thoughts on that:

        1) The government does a pretty good job of making that the case currently.

        2) There’s no reason that genetic engineering couldn’t be made cheap enough to bring to the masses. Anything with that much potential will have huge demand. Maybe at first it’ll be just the rich, but, like with computers, eventually that stuff will be cheap enough anyone can do it.

    2. ignoring the several ton SoCon in the room.

      Yes but the reasoning is different. SoCons don’t have much of a problem with fertility treatments while looking at bioethics one can find the core of their argument opposes them.

      The sticky issue for the SoCons is the sanctity of life while the sticky issue for bioethics is culture and society moving in a direction that is not of their left wing choosing.

      The SoCon issue can be mostly overcome with technological achievement the lefty bioethics issue cannot…in fact the issue with them is technological achievement itself.

      1. I think your last comment is actually pretty insightful, but I would note that the SoCon problem with any process that is going to allow for the creation and then not bringing-to-life of any embryos is going to be pretty fundamental.

        1. then not bringing-to-life of any embryos is going to be pretty fundamental.

          If you know what the DNA is that you want preventing cells with the DNA you don’t want to ever be alive is technically pretty trivial.

          1. For many, if not most, SoCons, life begins with that one cell.

            1. So until a test is developed that could identify genetic problems of the one celled embryo before it came into being, it is going to be a fundamental issue for SoCons, and we are not talking ‘one more unfairness of many’ as it is to leftist opponents, but calculated mass murder (to the SoCon).

              1. I don’t think this is a legitimate concern. IVF currently consist of implanting several embryos and selectively aborting if more than 2 implant. This is how octomom got famous. She rejected the selective abortions. Most people were pissed she would bring 8 kids she couldn’t support into the worlds vs the selective abortions. Thus far Socons haven’t outlawed IVF, no do I hear about them mass protesting IVF clinics.

                1. Socons talk quite a bit about IVF procedures as immoral, but they have got little political traction there because it is hard to push their usual emotional buttons (‘babies! motherhood!’) against IVF.

                  1. So I would imagine if they can’t get traction to shut down IVF, there is no way they are going to get traction to stop genetic selection to avoid disease. That is an easy sell. “Hey America! We can screen your future child to make sure they don’t get cancer!” Try to talk people out of that one.

                    1. It would just be like the stem cell research debates.

                    2. But they lost on that eventually. People are currently getting stem cell treatments. In fact in the morning article about HIV they reference the guy cured with a stem cell transplant.

                    3. Sure, I never said they would win on this one either, just that they are the most potent potential political opposition out there on it.

            2. Pretty sure he’s talking about selecting for gametes, which outside of the dwindling “every sperm is sacred” set is not considered life.

              1. Rebekah|2.14.14 @ 2:50PM|#

                Pretty sure he’s talking about selecting for gametes, which outside of the dwindling “every sperm is sacred” set is not considered life.

                Thank you Rebekah. This is what i was talking about.

                Pretty easy to kill sperm or eggs by targeting undesired DNA. In fact they have already done it for gender and the human body both male and female can and do produce chemicals that do the same thing.

                I also had a couple other ways in mind in which the SoCon’s problem with killing what they consider life, but all are technical solutions to a technical problem that once solved the SoCon’s issues would be solved.

                There is no technical solution to the bioethics problems. There are only prohibitions.

  17. Dismissing the entire field of bioethics is concerning. Setting aside the immediate ramifications of the issue, at some point if designer babies are possible, the federal government will insist on it. Anticipating and navigating these ethical concerns beforehand will enable a more constructive conversation and, ideally, form the intellectual framework to thwart the government’s efforts.

  18. I think there’s a pretty strong bioethical argument to be made that if it is possible to screen embryos for genetic diesases, it should be considered morally obligatory to do so.

    To do otherwise would be to knowingly expose children, indeed entire future lives, to the suffering caused by genetic disorders.

    Obviously, this wouldn’t apply to natural conceptions. But anyone who goes in for IVF ought to have routine screening done on embryos to remove any with known genetic defects. This should be standard medical procedure, just like giving your kids the MMR vaccine.
    There no real moral difference except to people who think that discarding embryos is murder.

    1. Or if you think discarding embryos is not desirable, but not necessarily murder, or if you think it is worth it for the ability to create life, but not for the purposes of perfecting that life.

      1. Or if you think discarding embryos is not desirable, but not necessarily murder


        Not trying to be a dick, just looking for how that kind of distinction would be drawn.

        All the reasons that would make it not desirable would be…murder.

        It’s either murder or there are no criteria I can see by which it would not be desirable.

        1. fluffy, in property class we covered cases involving who gets possession of embryonic life and we read several philosophical articles about the subject, one of which argued that while early stage fetuses and embryos are not morally equivalent to born human beings they are still living things and are deserving of some moral consideration. Maybe that is what is being said.

          1. Well in that case, the same considerations for any reason you would discard an embryo, not just because of genetic defects. You realize that MOST embryos created via IV processes are never used, right?

            Why does it make a difference if I’m discarding it because it’s got a genetic defect, or because I already have enough children and don’t want any more?

        2. just looking for how that kind of distinction would be drawn

          Pulled from asses, like most arbitrary distinctions.

        3. The distinction is pretty simple: even if you view embryos as human beings with full rights, one human being doesn’t have the right to use another human being’s body for survival.

          You don’t get to take my kidney even if it’s the only way you can survive. It may be “undesirable” for me to refuse to give you my kidney, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have a right to get it.

          Likewise, a fetus does not have a right to use the mother’s body for survival, even though it is only temporary, and even though the mother may have deliberately created the fetus.

          1. I don’t think your comments are actually true. You get to take my money to survive. I can’t refuse to pay taxes. You get to make decisions for me in all sorts of situations if you are a politician, a teacher, a policeman, my husband, my wife, I don’t think it’s as simple as “a fetus does not have a right to use the mother’s body,” even if you think it is. I guarandamtee you if you were infested by alien life forms, they would not let you kill it, even if it was killing you.

          2. …even though it is only temporary, and even though the mother may have deliberately created the fetus.

            Those are sticking points in the abortion issue even for some libertarians. Glad you could simply state them away without argument though. Makes it handy in case anyone was actually contemplating thinking about the subject.

      2. it is worth it for the ability to create life, but not for the purposes of perfecting that life.

        This makes no sense. It’s ok to discard embryos for the purpose of creating life? The life has already been created. You discard embryos because you only want one baby at a time (or maybe two). Why is it ok to discard an embryo because you don’t want any more kids, but it’s not ok to discard it because it’s genetically defective?

    2. Or maybe we could simplify this, like they did in Gatica and just not allow carriers of genetic disorders to procreate. That would be much simpler.

      1. Actually it wouldn’t be simpler. Instead of screening each embryo, you’d have to screen everybody for everything.

        Gattica was unbelievable and even became silly because of that inability to think things through. It was even less believable than Soylent Green.

      2. Eugenics got kind of a bad rap after that whole Hitler thing…

  19. Also, I should point out that withholding informaiton in the manner is morally equivalent to what happened in the Tuskeegee experiment.

    History is on the side of providing people with information.

    1. Also, I should point out that withholding informaiton in the manner is morally equivalent to what happened in the Tuskeegee experiment.

      Since the government intentionally infects fetuses with genetic propensity to illness and then withholds that information from the parents and the eventual child, I think you’re spot on.

  20. The way I see it, people are going to do whatever it is possible for people to do. So you might as well make the most of it.

  21. “But decisions about who should be born ought not to be in the hands of ethicists; they should be left up to the people whose lives and values are actually on the line.”

    And since we are unable to communicate with embryo’s–the only “people” whose lives and values are “actually” on the line–maybe we could listen to the ethicists?

  22. Has any embryo anywhere ever given permission to be aborted? Such a specious line of reasoning unless you also condemn abortion.

  23. The happy result is that the Kalinskys are the parents of three children that have been spared the prospect of suffering the disease that is likely to kill their mother.

    And if some non-persons are killed to achieve this end? Who cares, they got what they waaannntttteeed.

    And it makes sense. Those who are inferior should not be allowed to live. Amirite?

  24. I was intrigued by the headline because I can’t recall a fetus ever being diagnosed with alzheimer’s. I mean, that’s some early onset shit.

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