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Making Better Babies: Genetics & Reproduction
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Expanding the Discussion

Questions to help you grapple with the program's issues in a broader context:

  • Eugenics, which has been defined as the science of "improving human stock by giving more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable," was popular around the world during the first half of the 20th century. Many eugenists advocated breeding restrictions along racial lines. Today such delineations might also fall along socioeconomic lines. Will reproductive technologies and genetic enhancements turn out to be "good preventative medicine" or a form of eugenics?

  • There are two kinds of cloning technologies: reproductive cloning, which creates an embryo that grows into a genetic copy of the organism from which the cell was taken, and therapeutic cloning, which creates an embryo from which stem cells are extracted and theoretically used to treat conditions like Alzheimer's or organ failure. If therapeutic cloning becomes a reality, what sorts of guidelines would be necessary?

  • Suppose a prenatal test reveals the presence of Down's syndrome, but you decide to have the baby. If the child needs surgery for an inner-ear problem to which people with Down's syndrome are susceptible, suppose your insurance company eliminates his health coverage on the grounds that his disability represents a pre-existing condition of which you were aware—and one for which you assumed responsibility. Are there legitimate grounds for them to do so?

  • In 1994, Molly Nash was born with Fanconi anemia, an inherited bone marrow disorder that kills most children by the age of seven. The only treatment is an infusion of healthy cells from a perfectly matched sibling. Embryos from Molly's parents were created by in vitro fertilization and then genetically screened. One of the embryos that tested free of Fanconi and was a match for Molly was successfully implanted, and Adam Nash was born in August, 2000. Cells taken from his umbilical cord were infused into Molly's circulatory system, raising her odds of survival by about 55 percent. What are the ethical issues involved with a child conceived for such a purpose? What kind of government oversight, if any, should exist for reproductive technologies?


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