Anyone see "Nightline" on Thursday?

So I’ve got some friggin angst and want to discuss it with someone.

In the event you didn’t see “Nightline: Designer Babies,” you can see the article here.

The gist of it is that someone is selling embryos. Said embryos are made up of sperm and egg from smart, pretty people (in theory) and are selling for $2500 a blob.

A main part of the criticism is that these embies are from privileged stock. So just to get the comments ball rolling, I’m going to throw this one out there.

Is it innately wrong to try and get a “better” embryo? This is going to sound horrible, but really, if I’m paying to get sperm and egg as an embie from someone else, you better believe I’d like to know that they aren’t carriers for horrific illnesses. Point blank: I want to know that everything possible was done to ensure my child will not have Tay Sachs. I’d like to think they came from someone who was educated — mind you, I’m not saying I need a Nobel prize winner, but I’d like to know they had an average IQ. And while I’m no looker myself, I’d like to know they came from someone without congenital defects.

Yup. I actually said it. And you can hate me for it. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that if you’re offered the choice, you’d prefer to have a healthy, intelligent baby with a reduced risk of horrific illness.

I understand these things are in Hashem’s hands, but you wouldn’t drink and smoke during your pregnancy and say “Well, if God wants me to have a healthy baby, I still will.” The fact is that God is there to help up, but we gotta do our part.

And, not suprisingly, the bioethicists are up in arms on selling a full embryo. Yes, I get that some people will use this to get a genetically-superior (again, in theory) baby and that perhaps they don’t really need the infertility treatment at all. And some people will use it to have children they would not have been able to create themselves. The example used in the show was an African-American family having a Caucasian child since they would face fewer challenges in life.

But $2500 sounds like a very fair price for an embyo. And it’s much more affordable than domestic or international adoption, assuming you can get your embies to stick. Frankly, if this was a designer baby gig, I think she’d be selling them for a hell of a lot more than $2500.

And though some people will always take advantage of such efforts, I can’t help but think this is some negative publicity for an amazing opportunity for so many families.

As someone who has been advised to get genetically screened for both Tay Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis, I can say that I would seek out a service such as this one if I had a need for it.

What does everyone else think? Where should we draw the line on helping people have kids? And frankly, if someone was selling these embryos for $30K a piece, would that in and of itself be wrong? Do we expect the doctors and researchers to be above making a profit?

I’m pretty sure the companies selling us our fertility drugs are making a pretty penny.


2 responses to “Anyone see "Nightline" on Thursday?

  1. But $2500 sounds like a very fair price for an embyo. And it’s much more affordable than domestic or international adoption, assuming you can get your embies to stick.

    Is it really that much cheaper than adoption? Consider that to have that embryo transferred once you’ve purchased it:
    1. you have to find a place to store it
    2. you probably need more than one
    3. If you’re doing a medicated FET (which is pretty common) you have to pay for the medications
    4. You have to pay for the FET itself (I think this is $2-5K depending on geography)
    5. Considering the low odds associated with FETs, you probably will need more than one FET to make it stick.

    Domestic adoptions range from $10K-30K and up (unless you adopt from foster care and then the fees are negligible). International adoptions are $30K and up at this point. Yes, if one embryo and one FET works out, you’d be spending less money, but not necessarily.

    I personally don’t know why everyone’s all up in arms about what this woman’s doing. My guess is that most people who look for donor gametes keep some things in mind such as intelligence, physical appearance, etc. Most gamete donors are heavily screened to see if they are carriers for certain diseases (e.g. Tay Sachs) and are often excluded if they are carriers. The only thifference is that embryo sales combine “preferential” gamete donors. When medical science can reliably and safely cryopreserve eggs (it’s currently extremely difficult to do with an extraordinarily low success rate… eggs are much more fragile than embryos), I imagine that people will go and pick eggs with certain attributes and sperm with other attributes. No doubt, designer babies will happen one way or another.

    Essentially, however, I agree with you. What’s the big deal? Most people would admit that if they had their choice they’d have a child with a genetic leg up, so to speak.

  2. I agree with you, but only up until a certain point. To specify that you would like an embryo without certain diseases is one thing, but to start saying that you want a smart, pretty, blue-eyed, etc baby is another- where do you draw the line? I highly recommend seeing the movie Gattaca- Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman star in it- it was made in maybe 1998? It is scary in how entirely possible it is for something like that to occur now- we have all this DNA technology and we must make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand!

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