British Genetic Disorder Test Condemned for Creating Designer Babies

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 13, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 13
, 2006

London, England ( — British doctors are using a new technique to screen for genetic disorders that has pro-life advocates up in arms. They say the tests cause a lack of respect for the disabled and will promote abortions of babies who may have physical or mental handicaps.

The new technique, paid for by the British government’s health service, can identify over 200 inherited diseases — something doctors using it say is "revolutionary."

However pro-life advocates say the tests will lead to designer babies where only unborn children with potentially perfect characteristics are born.

”We are venturing into the unknown with extended genetic testing because we know so little about this field," Josephine Quintavalle, of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics, told the London Daily mail newspaper.

"It’s the whole process that is disturbing and when you have got 200 diseases that can be tested for, it seems inevitable that the next step will be the designer element," Quintavalle explained.

She also added that such tests could indicate a baby has a certain disease or condition that may not result after the baby is born. That could lead to more abortions or, potentially, infanticides.

”Who knows what is being discarded and there is always the risk of misdiagnosis," she added.

The new technique is based on the Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) designed in the 1980s to detect fetal abnormalities during the in-vitro fertilization process.

According to the newspaper, six patients have had the testing so far. Dr. Simon Fishel and his colleagues at the Nottingham-based CARE Fertility are offering the testing, which costs about $7,000.

”A technique capable of detecting at least 200 genetic disorders can now be offered to British couples at risk of having a seriously sick baby, often with a terminal illness," Fishel told Daily Mail.

”It can benefit the individual but there is an economic case for it being funded by the NHS – which has happened for half our patients," he said.

The latest technique looks for the ‘molecular fingerprint’ of a specific disorder in a single cell taken from an eight-day old human embryo.