Playing God?

Would you like to select your child’s gender?

The colour of her hair?

Whether she is dark-skinned or fair?

Whether she is tall or short?

It may soon be possible for couples to do so. A report in The Wall Street Journal explains this-

A Los Angeles clinic says it will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo a form of fertility treatment. The clinic, Fertility Institutes, says it has received “half a dozen” requests for the service, which is based on a procedure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis has been in use for years in order to avoid potentially life-threatening diseases in children. Progress in the the science behind PGD has been rapid and is now at a stage where made-to-order babies could be potentially possible.

It’s technically feasible and it can be done,” says Mark Hughes, a pioneer of the PGD process and director of Genesis Genetics Institute, a large fertility laboratory in Detroit. However, he adds that “no legitimate lab would get into it and, if they did, they’d be ostracized.”

But Fertility Institutes disagrees. “This is cosmetic medicine,” says Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic that is advertising gender and physical trait selection on its Web site. “Others are frightened by the criticism but we have no problems with it.”

Instead of avoiding some conditions, the technique also may have been used to select an embryo likely to have the same disease or disability, such as deafness, that affects the parents. The Johns Hopkins survey found that 3% of PGD clinics had provided this service, sometimes described as “negative enhancement”.

The rationale behind “choosing a disability” is that the disabled parents and similarly disabled child will adjust better to each other!

The implications of creating such “designer babies” are mind-boggling.

Should parents have the right to create the type of child they think they want?

In case of a dispute, should the final decision be the mother’s or the father’s?

Would thieves or dacoits choose traits for their children which would help them in their respective ‘trades’?

What if the child later goes to court against her parents because she does not like the traits they have chosen for her?

Isn’t creating a “designer child” nothing but playing God?




  1. Your article was interesting. But I admit I am afraid. The good thing is that one can avoid their child to have some genetic diseases. But think about this a beautiful lady is beautiful because there are uglies. Now if you make everybody the same good looking I think they won’t look so good. I got some food for my thinking. Thank you for posting this blog.


  2. This maybe a bit oldfashioned thinking, but our body’s reproductive systems are designed to “evict” or “destruct” a fetus that is not likely to thrive, which is why spontaneous abortions happen. When a child is naturally concieved, the fetus’s development has some initial boundary conditions that define its later deveopment, in a holistic way. These have to do with the environment, the mind, and the mothers body… I dont think this will hold if you do PGD, fiddle around with genes, and implant. To me the result will be unpredictable. What use is a superbeautiful, super athletic and einstein type child, say, if he has homicidal tendencies ? As it is you cant predict things in your own children. You think children thru PGD are going to be any better?I think allowing these kind of selection things will create a monster society, that of parents with no empathy. The children are another issue altogether. Maybe you can “install genes for beauty, athletiscism, brilliance etc. What about, can you install genes for kindness, truthfullness, honesty, friendliness, empathy ?An emphatic no to PGD . Even if it ends up costing 18,000 rupees instead of dollars.


  3. Sraboney- I agree, parents can’t play God!Pradip Biswas- Welcome here!Yes, if everyone were good-looking they would look as if mass-produced in a factory. It is a bit scary!


  4. It is definitely playing God! I cannot understand how these kind of ‘customization of babies’ or creating ‘designer babies’ can be even thought of.. leave alone allowed.. It is a revolting thought for me..


  5. Ugich Konitari- I agree completely, particularly with “What about, can you install genes for kindness, truthfullness, honesty, friendliness, empathy ?”And really, who are we to think that we know what qualities are desirable in a child? An obedient child may turn out to be very timid as an adult! Creating a designer child seems very selfish on the part of the parents- not necessarily in the best interests of the child.Smitha- It is a revolting thought- but it may be necessary to formulate laws regarding this in the near future! Governments are still struggling to formulate laws about surrogate pregnancies and similar issues…


  6. No matter how horrified all of us rightly feel,I think we all know that this is something that will explode in a manner that none of believe possible as of now, as soon as the costs come down.What I am most worried about is that guys who manage beggar gangs will start ordering children with various disabilities suited for the profession…one can think of even more frightening dimensions.


  7. Vinodji- Most of the possibilities we can think of are frightening. I am reminded of Hitler’s vision of a world filled with blond-haired, blue-eyed people!But you’re right, as soon as the costs come down we will probably have to face the reality of this genetic engineering.


  8. I am disgusted and scared by all the possible scenarios. I am temporarily residing in US and am already struck by the similarity between young females and the pressure to conform to certain beauty ideals. All the teenagers look like replicas o each other. Straightened hair , same make -up (at an obscenely young age), the older women with their plastic surgeries, no diferent. Children here all get dental work for apparently hardly any noticeable disfigurement. The list is endless.In the same vein I have always been boggled by the sperm bank thing. A man being the biological father of god knows how many kids he is unawre of and sibling marrying each other unknowingly….disgusting and a scary future for humanity. We are definitley walking on a raod less travelled and it leads to nowhere good I am afraid.


  9. Sucharita Sarkar- Welcome!Yes, a Jurassic Park-type situation would be scary!Researchers may think that PGD will be used mainly for avoiding life-threatening diseases. But of course, if parents are willing to pay large amounts of money for a baby with attributes that they specify, who will be able to stop use of PGD for that purpose?Chrysalis- Yes, that’s true, the pressure to conform to specific beauty ideals is seen here in India also.Most parents would love their daughters to be beuty queens- more and more parents are pushing their daughters into modelling and ad films at an early age.


  10. This is scary..and like I shared on Solilo’s post this is not the greatest thing to do…I am not in favour of it..but then again…what IF someone needs it desperately for some medical reason?Vinod Sir’s point about the costs coming down and the mad rush is scary too:(((


  11. Indyeah- A blanket ban is probably not desirable nor is it feasible.But some legislation has to be in place to ensure ethical use of these new technologies, as well as to resolve the disputes that will inevitably follow.I just hope PGD is not used for frivolous or criminal purposes…BK Chowla- I agree with you. However these new technologies may make that impossible.


  12. Al ready there is news about insufficient attention being paid to rules regarding this. In the UK, there is a rule about maximum two cells being treated with the PGD stuff. Someone there ignored this rule, and the lady, a single mother , who already had children, ended up delivering octuplets. Scientific American (India) , May 2009. .”Physicians who may receive more than $10,000 for a procedure serve as the sole arbiters of a series of thorny ethical, safety and social welfare questions. The 33-year-old Suleman already had six children, and her physician implanted her with six embryos, two of which split into twins. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) voluntary guidelines suggest that, under normal circumstances, no more than two embryos be transferred to a woman younger than 35 because of the risk of complications.”Is the woman a machine ? And how dare they play carelesly with her body ?


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