Imagine a world with no more genetic diseases and no more genetic predispositions to those diseases. This seemingly fantastic idea is quickly becoming a reality thanks to the evolution of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is “a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy” (Medscape). To eradicate the issue of hereditary disorders and their painful consequences, this house believes that parents should be able to screen for undesirable traits in their offspring. (Continues below the fold.)
First opposing speech
Ladies and gentlemen, we are addressing a topic that affects every one of us, as parents, as children or just as members of the society. The question raised by this debate is simple: should parents be allowed to ‘design’ their children? In other words, should parents be allowed to select for every one of the genetic traits of their children, just like the way they do when ordering a car for instance? The answer to this question is obviously no, and you will definitely agree with me once you learn the three reasons I’m about to mention. (Continues below the fold.)
First proposing speech
Imagine a world with no more genetic diseases and no more genetic predispositions to those diseases. This seemingly fantastic idea is quickly becoming a reality thanks to the evolution of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is “a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy” (Medscape). To eradicate the issue of hereditary disorders and their painful consequences, this house believes that parents should be able to screen for undesirable traits in their offspring.
PGD, in use since 1990, allows doctors to screen embryos for debilitating genetic diseases such as Down’s syndrome or Huntington’s disease. Today, it is even possible to use PGD to help cure already existing illnesses in others. Take the example of Adam Nash, a “saviour baby” who, according to an article published in 2000 by the BBC, saved his older sister Molly from a terminal illness. To save six-year-old Molly, who was suffering from a life-threatening bone marrow deficiency, “doctors selected an embryo which would produce the tissue match necessary to offer Molly the chance of a bone marrow transplant”. That embryo became Adam Nash, who was able to save his sister with his matching bone marrow.
This technique is so revolutionary in current medicine that its opponents denounce it as slipping down the slippery slope towards eugenics. It could be used to predetermine the gender or other physical traits of a baby, veering into what Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF (in vitro fertilization), calls “cosmetic medicine”.
While blocking genetic defects is praiseworthy, selecting appearance traits like eye color and height is not. We resolutely oppose this aspect of PGD. Limiting the scope of a new scientific discovery to fit within a moral structure is a controversial but necessary part of scientific progress, if it is to be beneficial to humanity as a whole. Thus, we believe that the use of PDG must be distinctly framed by the law. A parallel can be drawn with the issue of nuclear energy. While it represents a great opportunity to cope with oil rarefaction in the future, it also has a difficult association with nuclear weaponry and the dangers that come with it. However, like every powerful scientific breakthroughs, the world has learned to contain the potential threat (thanks to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for example). So why wouldn't we be able to do the same with PGD? In order for it to be fully accepted, we suggest a national debate regarding the ethics behind the process, culminating in effective policy measures.
Additionally, a fundamental distinction should be made between “therapy” and “enhancement”. There is a huge difference between preventing an illness and improving abilities. Using PGD for therapeutic purposes would involve switching a version of a defective gene in order to ensure, for example, the proper regulation of a person’s organ, whereas enhancing a person's ability would be making the gene optimal for the skill it is related to. We advocate PGD for therapy but firmly stand against its use for enhancement, which is essentially eugenics and would inevitably lead to an even more discriminatory society.
Imagine the peace of mind PGD could give to future parents who are carriers for genetic diseases. PGD is in the unique position of being both pro-choice, in that it provides the choice of having healthy descendants, and pro-life, in that it gives children the promise of a better life without the risk of suffering from genetic diseases. One should not forget that our character is determined by two main factors: our genetic inheritance and the environment we are brought up in. The combination of the two make us who we are. To a certain degree, we can control our environment by the choices we make, but we are forced to accept our birth defects. PDG solves the problem of being born genetically unequal specifically with regards to diseases.
Such a measure would also provide great economic benefits. The cost of prevention and medications related to genetic illnesses are extremely high. This spending would become completely unnecessary thanks to PDG. Allowing parents to screen for undesirable traits in their children would give the chance for everyone to start life on a more equal footing, a new way to cure existing diseases as in the case of Molly Nash, and a means to create significant savings in healthcare costs. So why should we go without it?
Thank you for reading and vote for us!
First opposing speech
Ladies and gentlemen, we are addressing a topic that affects every one of us, as parents, as children or just as members of the society. The question raised by this debate is simple: should parents be allowed to ‘design’ their children? In other words, should parents be allowed to select for every one of the genetic traits of their children, just like the way they do when ordering a car for instance? The answer to this question is obviously no, and you will definitely agree with me once you learn the three reasons I’m about to mention.
But first of all, let us precise the scope of this debate. Selecting for desirable genetic traits does not only amount to screening for genes which are likely to cause genetic diseases. Those kinds of situations can be addressed one at a time, just like in the Hashmi family case. Here we are talking about ‘designing’ a child by selecting for the physical or psychological aspects of his personality and even his talents. In concrete terms, it means testing in embryos for the genes which are known to determine someone’s physical and psychological aspects then select for the desired ones before proceeding to an “in vitro fertilization”. Doing so, one could choose the child gender, his height, his eyes color and so on.
All of this is possible thanks to the recent progresses in science, which we are very proud of. Nevertheless we have to be very careful because this can be a double edged sword. And as François Rabelais said four centuries ago, “science without conscience is the soul’s perdition”.
Can you imagine a society where each individual is physically and psychologically ‘perfect’, a society where everyone is beautiful and with an intellectual quotient worthy of genius? You do not need to look very far to understand that living in such a society would not be very exciting, to say the least. Now, should parents be allowed to ‘design’ their babies, that is the kind of society we are going to live in. Moreover, parents would be morally obligated to ‘design’ ideal babies. Children who do not like some aspects of their personality are definitely going to blame their parents.
On the surface, hailing the designer babies can be considered neo eugenics. And let me remind you why the eugenics movements fell out of favor; it was because they fronted for stigmatization. We should be more proud as individuals, with good and bad aspects in our personality. I am looking forward to what the proposers have to say that.
We are not against the motion just because we are conservative fellows who enjoy being physically or psychologically flawed. We truly believe that allowing people to select for desirable genetic traits of their offspring could lead to dreadful consequences as it goes against Nature Selection. In fact the genetic traits we are born with are the ones that best suits us. They are the ones Mother Nature Chose for us, for our survival. To illustrate this fact let me give this example about cloned animals: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1903-cloned-animals-meet-early-deaths.html
The results of this study point out that cloned animals meet early deaths. And let me add this : they don’t survive because they were not chosen by Nature.
Now that you get the gist of our argumentation, I hope you are convinced that parents shouldn’t be allowed to select for the desirable genetic traits of their offspring. If not, my partner is going to give you further details.
Thank you for your attention and vote for us!