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Designer Babies: The Rise of a Superficial Society

Honors British Literature
E. Tawes

Hunter Bourdon
15 April 2015


Designer Babies: The Rise of a Superficial Society

Technology and science have solved many of the challenges that have faced humanity.
Society has vaccinations to prevent disease and illnesses. Scientists have found cures to ailments
that once upon a time killed the bodies and minds of the human race. They have figured out how
to purify water, and taught the importance of hygiene. Civilization has even used technology to
further advance its comfort; cars that help make travel easier, affordable, and timely; computers,
phones, and tablets that allow access to most of the knowledge learned by man, and machines
that help keep food fresh for extended amounts of time. Through experimentation, scientists have
been able to lower infant and pregnancy mortality rates and they have learned of ways to test for
genetic diseases in fetuses. Though experts have not yet formed a way to dispose of these
diseases after they are found, scientists have learned how to choose the desirable DNA and create
babies so that they hold such desireable traits. A well-spoken explanation is given by Suter
(2007) when she stated the following:
...gene therapy, or transfer, may also create pressures toward neoeugenics. In spite
of their initial optimism, scientists have been disappointed at how little gene
transfer has progressed since the 1990s. In addition, the procedure is not without
risks. Despite these difficulties, one can easily imagine that in the future (perhaps
more remote than researchers would like to believe), we will be able to use gene
transfer to treat some genetic diseases. When and if that becomes possible, it is
easy to imagine that the desire to select against and treat genetic disease will be
great. At this point, eugenicscreating the well-bornwould become
intertwined with time disease treatment. Gene transfer may also open the door to


positive eugenics, where the focus would be on improving births rather than
preventing undesirable births. Theoretically, the technology will be used to
enhance certain desirable qualitiesnot merely to treat disease.
Science is an important part of our society; however, altering genetics and DNA should be off

What is a "Designer Baby"?

A designer baby is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a baby whose genetic makeup has
been selected in order to eradicate a particular defect, or to ensure that a particular gene is
present (Oxford Dictionary, n.d.). Suter (2007) also commented on the use of gene therapy, not
just to find genetically linked illnesses but also to choose how a baby will look:
At the extreme, the distinction between treatment and enhancement seems clear.
The former aims to eradicate disease, such as to provide a gene to prevent a child
from inheriting a form of immune deficiency, whereas the latter aims to improve
what is normal, such as using gene transfer to help a child of average height
become taller. Genetic enhancement, and gene therapy, for that matter, can
theoretically occur at the somatic cell level (where the genetic alteration would
occur in non-reproductive cells and therefore would not be inherited by future
progeny) or at the germline level (where the genetic alterations would occur in the
reproductive cells so that future generations could inherit the alterations).
Germline level enhancement is more relevant to the focus of this Article since it is
a technology that can improve future generations. In some ways, it represents
the greatest extreme of trying to create the well born.


Designer babies are the result of two people wanting to have kids, but only wanting their kids to
behold certain features, nipping the bud on certain genes. The gene pool requires a multitude of
genes. If humans unnaturally cut out a portion of the genetics available, then the result will likely
be a future in which the human race regrets having lost its variety.
Designer babies may also be created in order to solve the growing problem of there not being
enough matches in donors. Some parents want a designer baby because they already have a
child that is ill, and they want someone that can be a genetic match for organ donations. Baird
(2007) recounted one such story:
A more recent development is the testing of the embryos for tissue matching. The
embryos are tested for a tissue match with a sibling that has already developed, or
is in danger of developing, a genetic disease or disorder. The purpose is to
produce a baby who can be a tissue donor. This type of procedure was
successfully used to cure a six-year-old-boy of a rare blood disorder after
transplanting cells from his baby brother, who was created to save him. Doctors
say the technique could be used to help many other children with blood and
metabolic disorders, but critics say creating a baby in order to treat a sick sibling
raises ethical questions (Baird, 2006).

The difference of changing Genes for Treatment or for Enhancement

Multiple reasons exist to explain why two parents may go to a doctor for pregnancy. It may be
that they have had a hard time getting pregnant and would like help, it may be that there is a
medical history the parents-to-be are worried about, or it could be because they want specific


traits to dominate over others. As Hagler (2015) explained that this is a process that is
specifically asked for:
Designer babies are created through a number of processes, as Hagler explains,
Methods of genetic engineering to impact the development of a fetus vary, with
the most complex forms of selection and manipulation remaining unproven.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a technique used in in vitro fertilization
(IVF), involves screening embryos for traits such as genetic diseases or gender
before deciding which embryo to implant in the womb. Gene therapy involves
altering or replacing cells' DNA or mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), including in
unfertilized egg cells. Advances in stem cell research offer further possibilities for
shaping an embryo's genes for a desired outcome. (Hagler, 2015). These babies
are reviewed and chosen based on a list of acceptable or desirable traits. Parents
of these designer babies literally went to the doctor and ordered a custom-made
The difference between using these processes for the above or for the elimination of certain birth
defects is that one fuels the superficial face of society and the other helps children that may have
led a life of dependence or hard times for a better chance at "normalcy". Suter (2007) elaborated
on this:
As assisted reproductive technologies develop, they will overcome many of the
barriers that currently prevent some people from choosing to select against
disease. They may even move many towards selection of 'fitter' or 'improved'
children, a form of positive neoeugenics. Several new technologies will aid this
progression of neoeugenics. One technique, which is still in the experimental


stage, is to analyze fetal cells that have been isolated from maternal blood. This
form of prenatal testing eliminates the risks of complications associated with
amniocentesis and CVS [Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome] and may therefore make
prenatal testing more desirable to some.

The History of Deleting Undesirable genes from the Gene Pool

One of the many reasons that creating designer babies is crossing a line is that it can knockout
genetics from the gene pool. A variety of genetics is vital for the health of humans, otherwise
defects and mental disabilities begin to occur. This is not the first threat to the gene pool to have
occurred. It became very apparent during the second World War. It was publicized, turning many
off of the subject. Suter describes this further:
Inspired by the dominance of American eugenicists in their legislative and
research efforts, other countries soon followed suit. Germany's program of
"Racial Hygiene" and sterilization ultimately dwarfed the eugenic efforts of the
United States and others. In 1933, Germany enacted a comprehensive eugenic
sterilization act, which created a system of Hereditary Health Courts with
authority to sterilize the unfit. The act originally targeted those with a "great
probability" of passing on "feeblemindedness," mental illness, and various
disabilities and diseases. Eventually, the law included non-Germans and many
others on the "weakest of pretenses," including being half-Jewish. It is estimated
that the Nazi programs sterilized 3.5 million individuals. In 1939, the Third Reich
went far beyond sterilization, implementing euthanasia to eliminate the mentally
diseased, the disabled, and the Jews. Roughly 70,000 patients were selected for


euthanasia, including tens of thousands of "Aryans," most of whom were young

children. Ultimately, the Germans would expand their eugenics program into the
Holocaust, which took the lives of roughly 11 million individuals. The World War
II era reflects both the extremes of eugenics and the beginning of its end. When
Germany lost the war, its eugenics efforts necessarily stopped. Around that time,
eugenics also fell out of fashion in the United States. Most believe that its demise
was primarily due to "universal revulsion" of the Nazi version of eugenics.

There are many reasons for wanting to create a baby by picking certain genes to prevail over
others. Most of the reasons, however, are to meet beauty standards, either the parents or
societys. Every gene is important, even if some are created by mutation for evolutionary factors.
If the human race cut those out, they would be destroying chances at the race becoming greater
or it may ruin the chances of survival.


Baird, S. L. (2007, April). Designer Babies: Eugenics Repackaged or Consumer Options?
Retrieved from Galileo database. (Accession No. 24658576)
Designer baby. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved from definition/american_english/designer-baby
Hagler, G. (2015). Designer Baby. In Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from Galileo
database. (Accession No. 100039071)
Suter, S. M. (2007). A Brave New World of Designer Babies? Berkeley Technology Law
Journal, 22(2), 898-934. Retrieved from Galileo database. (Accession No.