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Ethical Dilemmas 3


Ethical Dilemmas 3

A married couple wishes to have a child; however, the 32 year old mother knows that she is a carrier for Huntington's Disease (HD). HD is a genetic disorder that begins showing signs at anywhere from 35-45 years of age.

Its symptoms begin with slow loss of muscle control and end in loss of speech, large muscle spasms, disorientation and emotional outbursts. After 15-20 years of symptoms, HD ends in death. HD is a dominant disorder which means that her child will have a 50% chance of contracting the disorder.

 

Feeling that risking their baby's health would be irresponsible, the couple decides to use in vitro fertilization to fertilize several of the wife's eggs. Several eggs are harvested, and using special technology, only eggs that do not have the defective gene are kept to be fertilized. The physician then fertilizes a single egg, and transfers the embryo to the mother. Approximately 9 months later, the couple gives birth to a boy who does not carry the gene for the disorder.

 

Questions:

Eugenics is the hereditary improvement of the human race controlled by selective breeding.

  • Is this a case of eugenics?
  • Should the parents only select an embryo that doesn’t have HD, or would it be acceptable for them to choose the baby’s sex as well? What would be the difference?
  • Is it ethical for the couple to have a baby knowing that the mother could start showing signs of HD when the baby is only a few years old?
  • Keeping in mind that this technology is available, would it be ethical for the couple to have a child without genetically ensuring it would not have HD?
  • What if this technology wasn’t available, would it be ethical for a known carrier to have a child? If not, how far should this carry?

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Prepared By: Dr. Mehyar Al-Khashroum
Edited By: Miss Araz Kahvedjian


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