As technology continues to advance, new breakthroughs in medicine are discovered. With these developments, serious ethical and moral questions arise. Advancements in genetic engineering, reproductive technologies, cloning, organ transplanting, and human experimentation are all causes for concern. The Human Genome Project, a scientific undertaking to produce a map of the human DNA code, will tell us how each gene or group of genes functions (Lemonick and Thompson 44).
With this map, scientists and doctors will be able to figure out how genes can malfunction and cause deadly diseases. They will also know what each gene controls and how to manipulate and control our genes to get the desired results. This is the type of tool researchers need to perfect the science of eugenics. Eugenics” is a powerful word from the Greek stem meaning “good in birth” (Gray 84). In the past, it was thought that we could improve the quality of the human race by making it impossible for those with undesirable traits to reproduce.
Charles Davenport once said, I hope human matings can be placed on the same high plane as horse breeding” (qtd. in Gray 84). Several states in the United States have implemented laws that mandate sterilization for people in custody with hereditary defects (Gray 85). These states were swayed by the false science of eugenics and the purification of the human race. The 1927 Supreme Court case of Buck vs.
Bell. The result of this case was the sterilization of Carrie Buck, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a feeble-minded” mother. The mother had a seven-month-old daughter already determined to be of “subnormal intelligence” and was legally declared a “moral imbecile” herself. However, the concept of purging our race was not present in the United States alone. Hitler’s concept of eugenics consisted of sterilizing the blind, schizophrenics, and those with terrible physical deformities (Gray 85). With the advancement of genetic engineering, scientists can now genetically alter the human race, making a huge leap forward. Soon, scientists will be able to genetically pre-determine nearly every characteristic newborn children are likely to have.
Doctors will be able to determine how tall a child will be, what type of body they will have, what illnesses they will be resistant to, and even their IQ and personality (Lemonick 64). As Jeremy Rifkin, a critic of biotechnology, says, It’s the ultimate shopping experience: designing your baby. In a society used to cosmetic surgery, this is not a big step” (qtd. in Lemonick 64). However, the gene or combination of genes that make up these favored characteristics have not yet been found, so it is not yet possible to engineer a variety of genes, both in and out of the fetus (Lemonick 64).
According to a TIME magazine poll, sixty percent of those responding would choose to rule out a fatal disease if given the choice of which traits a person would choose for his or her child. Thirty-three percent of the people would request greater intelligence, twelve percent desired to influence height or weight, and finally, eleven percent of those questioned would determine the sex of the child (Lemonick 64). Additionally, thirty-nine percent of those polled believe that parents with genetically linked diseases ought to be required to test their children for them, while fifty-five percent did not (Lemonick 64). When speaking of genetically altering genes to obtain the proverbial “perfect baby,” one must address the issue of genetic discrimination.
If researchers are able to locate the exact genes that determine our mental traits or characteristics, could zealous parents or the government use this ability to destroy any characteristics they see as undesirable and remove them? They could then proceed to add the traits they consider good and guarantee everyone receives them (Yount 86). The issue of genetic discrimination will become more prevalent as society continues to strive toward perfection, and new methods of obtaining this are developed. As geneticist Karl A. Drlica said in 1994, What we now call an average child may eventually be considered defective” (Yount 80).
This is a relatively easy point to defend. When a group of parents is genetically altering the future generation to perfection, those not engineered will be at a disadvantage. Soon, we will have the technology to escape having children with certain defects” such as attention-deficit disorder, below-average height, lower intellect, homosexuality, or a possible genetically linked disease. Will those individuals still possessing these traits be ostracized and made to feel even more marginalized?