British debate "designer babies," government authorizes more experiments


The debate on “designer babies” has intensified in the UK after the government authorized a local university to screen embryos in order to “prevent” colon cancer.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the country's fertility watchdog, said it granted a license to University College Hospital in London to screen for familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a cancer that usually occurs in children in their early teens.

If the test is positive, couples can request that through in vitro fertilization only embryos free of that particular gene.

According to the HFEA, there is a fifty percent possibility parents can pass the gene on to their children.  Nevertheless, this type of cancer does not normally develop until a person is 20 years old and may not even appear until the age of 40.  This means that some embryos that may never develop the disease would be eliminated.

The authorization to screen embryos according to their genetic code has ignited debate on “designer babies” among the British.

Pro-life groups have warned that the HFEA decision will lead to the elimination of human beings that would perhaps never develop the disease.  Likewise they recall that this type of cancer can be prevented by other means such as surgery.
Josephine Quintavaller, of the group "Comment on Reproductive Ethics", warned, “Here we are not talking about curing disease, but about eliminating its carrier:  this is very poor medicine.”  He underscored that this illness “takes 20 years to appear and with the rate at which medicine is advancing it possible that by then a cure will be found.”

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