MotherTalkers

Where real moms tell it like it is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Brave New World

Infertile couples, women prone to multiple miscarriages and parents wanting to save a child from a terminal illness -- by sifting through healthy embryos for another baby -- are relying on a procedure called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, according to a recent article by the New York Times.

The procedure, known simply as "P.G.D.", lets doctors screen through embryos and implant only the healthy ones into the mother. Women with multiple miscarriages due to chromosomal defects in the embryo -- the most common reason for miscarriage -- have used the procedure to bear healthy children. Other couples such as the Flynn family in this article have used the procedure to bear children whose bone marrow could be used to save their daughter from Fanconi anemia, a disease that leads to bone marrow failure and carries a high risk of childhood cancer.

While I applaud these couples' courage for going through a complicated procedure, it is important to note that P.G.D. is not fool proof and carries some ethical dilemmas. The Flynns ended up having twin girls with Fanconi -- now three daughters total, with the fatal disease.

There is the possibility that parents could sift through the embryos and select their ideal traits in gender, intelligence and physical strength. Think there is no individuality in the suburbs? Imagine a generation of perfect -- most likely, white -- genetic babies.

Also, the hysteria of this mother bothered me:

"My doctor told me I would never have a biological child," said Ms. Santos, who lives in Gillette, New Jersey. The diagnosis was a chromosomal translocation a mix-up in the arrangement of a few genetic pieces that leads to a high proportion of abnormal embryos and a 90 percent rate of miscarriage.

"It was depressing having all those miscarriages, but when they told me it was over, I wanted to kill myself," she said.

I understand being devastated at not being able to have a child. (Santos, by the way, did bear a daughter thanks to P.G.D..) But to want to kill herself? The doctor should have waited before offering the procedure.

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