November 19, 2006

The Ethics of Embryo Sex Selection

The question is being asked: is sex selection of embryos ethical? Should a couple have the right to choose the sex of their child? The answer to this question depends upon your starting point. I, for one, think it's rediculous to debate the ethics of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, the genetic test which allows parents to discover whether your embryo is a boy or a girl because the first and ultimate question is, is it ethical to destroy embryos which, adding yet another layer to the discussion, happens as a result of eugenic selection?

Ok, that's a long sentence. I suppose it comes close to beating my record.

Couples are paying incredible amounts of money in order to select the sex of their child. NBC recently did a story that can be found here. Do couples understand that in selecting the sex of their child they are not starting with a genderless embryo, but rather they are discarding/destroying an embryo of the sex they simply don't want at this point?

Apparently through screening the male gamete the destruction of undesired embryos can be avoided. It's not entirely clear that this is the process most commonly used.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is used to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities which accounts for the 80-90% of Downs Syndrome babies being aborted each year.

Perhaps we are halfway down the slippery slope which started with prenatal use of ultrasounds which allowed for many of us to learn the sex of their baby prior to birth. But I don't think that the element of surprise is the ultimate issue here. What respect does the embryo deserve as a vulnerable human in its earliest stage?

If a parent can regard an embryo as simply a boy or a girl, surely they understand the personhood of the embryo. Because embryo destruction lacks the repulsiveness of abortion, we will struggle for a long time showing the validity of our arguments on behalf of the embryo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, i just used this for my science coursework =]