British Panel Gives Green Light to Producing "Designer Babies"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 24, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Panel Gives Green Light to Producing "Designer Babies"

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
July 24, 2004

London, England ( — In a highly controversial move, Great Britain is giving the green light to the production of so-called "designer babies."

Britain’s fertility regulator has decided to loosen the rules on screening human embryos to permit couples to conceive a made-to-order baby in order to cure an ailing sibling.

In the past, Britain has allowed embryo screening only to eliminate genetic disorders.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority says it will now allow couples to screen embryos for tissue matches so that parents can pick and choose which embryos will be implanted and allowed to be born.

"This is a cautionary advance for medical treatment for an existing, very sick sibling," said Suzi Leather, head of the fertility board. "I do not believe this is playing God."

But Nuala Scarisbrick of the pro-life group known as Life said that, while the group sympathizes with the parents of sick children, it would like to see alternatives to creating babies for the specific purpose of tissue transplants.

Scarisbrick told the British press, "Human beings should not be created and then tested and discarded–it is eugenics. It means that we are trying to create perfect people and this is wrong. It’s not a healthy thing for a society to do."

She noted that the decision could lead to the selection of embryos based on sex or eye color.

Meanwhile, Joe and Julie Fletcher of County Down in Northern Ireland praised the embryology authority’s decision.

They want to be able to choose an embryo that will help cure their two-year-old son Joshua who suffers from a rare blood disease.

But opposition to the concept of "designer babies" remains strong.

Paul Tully of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said in a written statement, "We have every sympathy for Joshua Fletcher and his family. However, it cannot be right to create a child with the primary purpose of benefiting an elder brother."

"The designer baby may be allowed his or her right to live, but that same right will be denied to his embryonic brothers and sisters. These unwanted embryonic siblings could be flushed down the sink, frozen or used for experiments," Tully said.

"Although one should do everything that is ethical to relieve illness and pain, it cannot be right to destroy human life like this," Tully added. "This unethical procedure undermines any benefit which could come from it."

Meanwhile, David King, director of a group called Human Genetics Alert, told reporters, "It is wrong to create a child simply as a means to an end, however good that end might be…This violates the basic ethical principal that we should not use people as tools."

The lobbying group known as Comment on Reproductive Ethics also criticized the fertility watchdog organization as being "blatantly arrogant" and labeled the decision "an abuse of the surplus embryos created and disposed of simply because they are not the desired tissue-type."

Relayed web sites:
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children –