Despite Destruction of Life, Americans Back Embryo Screening

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Despite Destruction of Life, Americans Back Embryo Screening

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
May 8, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A poll conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at The Johns Hopkins University revealed that a majority of Americans approve of genetic selection of embryos to produce a perfect donor for a sick older sibling.

The survey, which polled 4,005 Americans, found that 61 percent responded favorably to the genetic testing and selection for the purpose of creating a "designer sibling," while 57 percent disapproved of using the same process for selecting the desired sex of the child.

While detailed results of the survey will not be available until this summer, a statement from the Genetics and Public Policy Center did say that 80 percent of respondents expressed concern that if not regulated, such reproductive genetics technologies could "get out of control."

As the process causes the destruction of human embryos that are not deemed a close enough match, pro-life advocates already believe the application of the genetic testing and selection is a problem.

"It seems that being a proper match to donate bone marrow is the decisive factor in whether one is born alive rather than discarded," pointed out Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "199 embryos were created and tested; 154 were not a proper match, and are not heard of again (except that some are actively destroyed for whole-embryo testing); 28 matched embryos were transferred to wombs, and five were born alive.

"Essentially, then, this was a search-and-destroy mission, added Doerflinger. "Many dozens of live human embryos were thrown away, and the few survivors were allowed to be born so they could donate tissue to benefit someone else. It is difficult enough to justify the hardships of bone marrow retrieval in any child, who obviously cannot give informed consent for the procedure; deliberately setting out to create children and select them for further survival in order to subject them to this sacrifice is clearly unethical."

Daniel McConchie, director of public relations and public policy for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, echoed Doerflinger’s sentiments.

"These experiments reflect the growing cultural tendency to only value human life that offers some concrete contribution to human existence," said McConchie. "The act of choosing some lives over others entirely because of their genetic makeup is dehumanizing."

The Christian Medical Association (CMA) also decried the practice as crossing the line into eugenics.

"We who are physicians have dedicated our lives to healing patients like these ailing children," said David Stevens, M.D., executive director of the CMA.

"But these scientists have crossed the line into eugenics — by manipulating the reproductive process so that only those babies who meet certain criteria are allowed to be born. Their process of selection through embryo tissue typing is the equivalent of a human meat market, where some human beings are judged fit for consumer use and others are rejected. This is pure eugenics, and Americans must not tolerate it."

Currently there are no regulations in the United States regarding the genetic testing and selection of pre-born humans.

Related Sites:
US Catholic Conference of Bishops –
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity –
Christian Medical Association –