Recently I was discussing Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) with some friends and we argued for and against it. PGD refers to the procedure to identify defects or problems in an embryo before implantation. The procedure is linked to IVF and can be used to identify many diseases or conditions prior to implantation. (Genetic Testing, n.d.).
During the IVF procedure, the embryo is tested for specific conditions and the couple can decide if they want to discard the embryos if it test positive for the condition they are concerned about. For example, if a family is concerned about down syndrome, sickle cell anaemia, or cystic fibrosis, they can test if the embryos has the condition and can decide not to put the embryo in the uterus and instead destroy the embryos.
We argued about the morality of this approach of PGD. Some of my friends argued from the faith point of view and the fact that science shouldn’t be playing God. People shouldn’t be able to choose what type of child they get. God should be the only one deciding that. If an embryo has a birth defect, then that means it was meant to be. At the same time, my faith based friends argued that embryos shouldn’t be destroyed and each child should be given a chance.
I argued that it wasn’t so easy to comment on this issue as people dealing with the situation usually have a hard time deciding to opt for PGD. While growing up, I have known friends that had sickle cell anaemia and many have died. Some had very traumatic times as they experienced painful crisis very often and it was hard for their friends and family to watch them in so much pain. If a couple who are carriers of the sickle cell gene has watched others with sickle cell crisis, they would most likely do everything in their power to prevent them bringing a child with the gene to this world.
Sickle cell anaemia is a condition common to people of African descent and Asians. For everyone that is a carrier of the sickle cell gene, having a baby with another person who is also a carrier, will result in 25% chance of having a baby that has sickle cell anemia.
Of course, carriers of the gene can ensure they only get married to someone who is not a carrier to ensure they do not have the risk of having a child with sickle cell. But should that be their only option? What if a person that is a carrier falls in love with another people who is also a carrier? Should they not get married just because of this? Should they not have any children because of this? Or should their only option be to adopt?
It is never that easy to judge or criticise people’s decisions when looking in from the outside. But when you actually get close to the situation, it is easier to understand their decision.
Of course, PGD can also be used to choose hair color, eye colour and other features in an embryos and these might be reasons people can do without. But in cases, where the qualify of life that the child might be subjected to is at stake, should we be able to judge and decide what’s best for them?
What are your thoughts? What is your opinion of PGD? Has science gone to far?
Imaged Culled from: Genetic Testing. (n.d.).
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