Genetic Engineering – Ethical Issues
Genetic Engineering is an issue that touches upon the most profound ethical issues. When discussing the topic of genetic engineering we must be aware that there are two different types: therapeutic and enhancement. Therapeutic treatment is considered to be a type of gene restoration, where one’s genes would be altered to fit within the parameters of typical person’s. On the other hand, the other form of genetic engineering, gene enhancement is the idea of improving average typical genes to be above average.
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Therapeutic treatment is acceptable, if parents can prevent their child from having a serious or fatal disease, they should be able to pay for genetic treatment if they can afford to do so. However, I completely disagree with the process of genetic enhancement; a parent should not be able to alter their child’s genes from typical or average to above average. If humans even consider gene enhancement for their children, they should revise what is morally and ethically right and wrong.
The thought of parents one day being able to enhance or perfect the genes of their expected child is by all means wrong. Children should not be born into a world where their ultimate choices have been made by their parents before the moment of their birth. Children’s genes should be left untouched unless there is something terribly wrong, such as a sickness or disease. After recently entering the new millennium, our world has become obsessed with the idea of enhancements. This obsession is most common among young adults.
Young adults these days feel pressured to look a certain way, to have exact amounts of muscle or body fat, to have a certain IQ, and to obtain a certain status. A large part of the problem comes from our culture. Just look at the trademark bodies of models, actors and actresses. Youth and beauty seem to go hand-in-hand in mainstream culture, and many young adults strive for the complete package: intelligence, looks and status. Everyone has become infatuated with the idea of perfection; people are constantly trying to be better than the next person.
In addition, these same people who are convinced that they need to have all the “right” things; also want their children to be flawless. Many people these days would be in favor of genetically enhancing their child’s average typical genes to be above average and almost perfect genes. These people would like to be able to decide from a variety of different genes, which ones their children will have, including eye color, hair color, body type, IQ and possibly many other genes. (Torr 251) Every parent wants a healthy child. Until just a few years ago, making a baby was a hit or miss.
Parents with the access to the latest genetic engineering can now determine a baby’s sex before conception. In a few years, we will be able to know how tall, what body type, hair and eye color, and even the IQ our baby will be have. Torr 193) Parents would have access to this information right around the time the baby is conceived. If the process of genetic enhancement is legalized, parents with knowledge of their children’s genes, would be able to pay doctors to weed out any unwanted genes and replace them with sought after genes.
For example, if a child’s parents were told that their child is going to have brown hair and brown eyes, the parents would be able to pay a fee to alter the child’s genes, so the child could now have blonde hair and blue eyes, if that was what the parents decided. With genetic enhancement parents would be able to pay doctors to balance out their family. (Lambrecht 56) Childbirth is supposed to be a miracle; a child’s genetic future should not be planned out.
“Parents, who want to choose their child’s genes before their birth for enhancement reasons, are in my mind immoral. (Mae-Wan 25) Parents should be able to look towards genetic engineering for therapeutic reasons, such as making sure their son or daughter isn’t going to be born with a mental retardation or born paralyzed. Diseases like these are a difficult thing to live with for both the child and the parent. In the beginning, this process will not be readily available to everyone; it will be open to only those people who can afford the high priced doctor bill for these requests (Lambrecht 31).
These are human lives we are talking about, just because they have not actually been brought into this world yet, does not mean they should be tossed back and forth due to their genes. In the past, science has allowed advances in production, transportation and in many ways technology; but never in history will science have such a deep effect on our lives, as genetic engineering will undoubtedly have if the processes of genetic enhancement and therapeutic treatment are fully developed.
Over the past decade, scientists have made vast improvements in the field of genetics and at this time are still trying to develop and fully identify and understand the entire genetic constitution. They have the daunting task of identifying and mapping all of the eighty thousand genes, in human DNA; they are making new discoveries weekly” (Jones 1537). The sex cells make up exactly half of the forty-six chromosomes, twenty-three, in the human body. (Mae-Wan 63) When sex cells from a man, the sperm, and a sex cell from a woman, the egg, combine, a new life is created.
This life has genetic traits from each of the parents. In technical terms, genetic engineering is isolating and removing a desired gene from a strand of DNA. In genetic engineering, many different apparatuses are used in removing the gene. One way DNA can be broken up is by ultra-high frequency sound waves, but this procedure is highly inaccurate way of isolating a desirable trait (Jones 1537). A more accurate way of obtaining the desired trait is the use of restriction enzymes. These enzymes chemically cut the DNA at a particular location on the strand.
Now that the trait is cut out, it can be joined to another strand of DNA by using ligases, another enzyme, and these enzymes acts like glue, binding the two pieces together. The final step is making the DNA self-replicating by placing it in a cell. (Torr 200) Genetic engineering is full of financial constraints. As in many cases, the question here is who will pay for all of this. “It is inevitable that the lack of financial resources will make it difficult for some patients to pursue genetic engineering.
Stratification of patients by risk will increase the availability. The cost will be high because, most health insurance agencies will not cover the cost” (Jones 1537). Only a few select people will have enough money to correct their children’s genetic errors. Insurance companies make their money by spreading risk over as large of the population as they can. Lambrecht 37) By calculating that, the healthy people will pay for the sick people. Unless state law prohibits, insurance companies can discriminate legally, by raising their premiums.
With this information insurance companies can look at each person’s genetic information and raise the premiums if they notice that you will develop a disease in the future. The same will hold true with employers, employers do not want an employee to work for them, who is going to be hit with a disease sometime in the future, and they want employees who have a healthy future ahead of them. You are entitled to know this information just as you are entitled to know your blood type, or your cholesterol level” (Torr 198). In this quote, Torr is referring to knowing your children’s genetic future.
From, just a tiny sample of your blood, you would be able to identify your child’s entire future and map out their life by setting your expectations, limitations and goals. When you find out this vital information you would be driving yourself crazy, especially if you wanted to change some of the genes and you didn’t have the money to do so. If you had the sufficient funds to genetically enhance your child, your son or daughter would constantly be worrying whether or not they were living up to your expectations, or they might even make up excuses blaming their problems and downfalls on your genetic choices.
Life is what you make out of it; a vial of blood should not determine your children’s destiny. As parents you should not be able decide their child’s destiny, your child should be able to decide their own destiny. If you allow yourself to use genetic enhancement to map out your child’s future, you are putting a limit on their life. Do not let genetic enhancement tell your child what they can and can not do in life, let them get up each day and push themselves harder than they did the day before, teach them to reach for their goals, not your planned limitations.
We cannot allow the process of genetic enhancement to go on if we do; we will see a new crisis much worse than the suppression of blacks. It will not matter what sex, Race, or creed you are, but only if you are or are not genetically ideal. The future will consist of the high and mighty society of the perfect beings versus the genetically inferior, the invalids. In this society, the genetically altered would be in superior jobs while the invalids would feel inferior.
Every person from here on in would have a genetic dog tag, which contains all of their personal gene information, when reading this tag, one would learn everything about you, you could take your genetic dog tag, plug in your information and find out who you are genetically suitable to marry. By letting the process of genetic enhancement go on and making everyone the same, we would be making one of Hitler’s dreams come true, the perfect human race. (Mae-Wan 29) With this ultimate race, a simple virus could wipe the entire population out, because so many of these people would share many like similarities and immunities.
Mother Nature intended for each of us to be unique, diversified and different. In a diversified society it is much more unlikely for people to share related genes, so viruses will not have an effect on all of us. If genetic enhancement does make its way into our future, everyone in our society would be fighting to have the “smartest” genes or the “best looking” genes for their children, our world would be extremely chaotic. Our society is not ready for all the changes this idea will bring, most people in this world would not know how to handle and control this form of technology without the proper safeguards to make it beneficial.
We must understand that genetic engineering can be advantageous as long as we are speaking of therapeutic treatment, which would free people of serious or deathly illnesses, not genetic enhancement. With out these safeguards, our world would be out of control, we would have scientists making animal people, or we might be paying high nsurance rates, we might lose our job to a more perfect person, these are all example of how we would be weeding out the genetically inferior. The new science of genetic engineering wants to take a shortcut in the process of evolution” (Jones 1537). In genetic engineering scientists aim to remove one gene from an organism’s DNA and place it into the DNA of another organism. This would create a new strand of DNA, full of new encoded instructions; a strand that would have taken Mother Nature millions of years to develop by the evolutionary process. There is no telling what will happen if you mess with Mother Nature.