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Thursday, February 27, 2014

And Baby Makes Four... 3-Parent Babies Are "In the Wings" For the Wombs of Americans

"U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the 'powerhouses' that drive cells.

"The procedure is 'not without its risks, but it's treating a disease,' medical ethicist Art Caplan told CNN's 'New Day' on Wednesday. Preventing a disease that can be passed down for generations would be ethical 'as long as it proves to be safe,' he said.

"'These little embryos, these are people born with a disease, they can't make power. You're giving them a new battery. That's a therapy. I think that's a humane ethical thing to do,' said Caplan, the director of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

"'Where we get into the sticky part is, what if you get past transplanting batteries and start to say, 'While we're at it, why don't we make you taller, stronger, faster or smarter?'"

(Matt Smith. "FDA Considering '3-Parent Babies.'" CNN. February 26, 2014) 

Mitochondrial disorders are inherited from the mother. In the procedure under discussion in Washington, genetic material from the nucleus of a mother's egg or an embryo gets transferred to a donor egg or embryo that's had its nuclear DNA removed.

The new embryo will contain nuclear DNA from the intended father and mother, as well as healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor embryo -- effectively creating a "three-parent" baby.

My View

An ethical dilemma left contested is, do these potential benefits for both patients compensate for the potential harm? Is this 3-parent procedure ethical? Possibly, in this context. I understand the need to prevent horrific genetic defects. However, the approval could open the door for high-tech consumer eugenics. To use a coined phrase, this may be a procedure that could lead the way to producing "designer babies." Is this argument just a slippery slope? I think not.

The use of three-parent IVF could alter the human species and, at the same time, allow experimentation on non-consenting human subjects (children born via the technique). One must consider the procedures that lead to the birth of genetically modified children as "manufactured products."

While such bans would alter the direction of treatment for birth defects, no one is certain about the psychological effects and the physical damage to children with three genetic parents. No one is really certain whether the child could still inherit mutated mtDNA from the maternal nuclei.

(J. Cohen, R. Scott, T. Schimmel, J. Levron, S. Willadsen. 1997. "Birth of infant after transfer of anucleate donor oocyte cytoplasm into recipient eggs." Lancet 350. 1997)

Bioethics is the study of typically controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Bioethics involves moral discernment as it relates to medical policy, practice, and research.
Some bioethicists would narrow ethical evaluation only to the morality of medical treatments or to technological  innovations, and the timing of medical treatment of humans. Others would broaden the scope of ethical evaluation to include the morality of all actions that might help or harm organisms capable of feeling fear.
If the FDA allows clinical trials, she warned, it would introduce "a regime of high-tech consumer eugenics" and represent "the first time a government body had okayed genetic changes for humans and their descendants." - See more at:
Although the panel has not been asked to consider legal or ethical issues, members of the public focused on those. Speakers warned the panel that use of three-parent IVF "could alter the human species," represented "an unprecedented level of experimentation on non-consenting human subjects" (meaning any children born via the technique), and "could open the door to genetically modified children" who would be "manufactured products." - See more at:

Without sounding overly apocalyptic about the ultimate ability to design babies that meet wants and whims, we must always look back to the evil Master Race ideology of the Nazis. Then, eugenics  came to play a prominent role in this racial thought as a way to improve and maintain the "purity" of the Aryan master race.

And, yes, even in the United State, the concept of "master race" arose within the context of master-slave race relations in the slavery-based society of historical America -- particularly in the South in the mid-19th century. Read these lines from The Hireling and the Slave (1855), a verse written by William J. Grayson, a U.S. Representative from South Carolina and a noted poet of the time:  

"For these great ends hath Heaven’s supreme command
Brought the black savage from his native land,
Trains for each purpose his barbarian mind,
By slavery tamed, enlightened, and refined;
Instructs him, from a master-race, to draw
Wise modes of polity and forms of law,
Imbues his soul with faith, his heart with love,
Shapes all his life by dictates from above"

The sociological approach assumes that biology alone is not able to successfully enable human reproduction. Medical ethicist Dr. David King, director and founder of Human Genetics Alert, says the issue has become clouded in political rhetoric, and that this medical argument is a smokescreen for what is essentially a social problem.

"Egg donation avoids complications [from cytoplasmic transfer] in a straightforward way, but it doesn't allow the mother to be genetically related to the child," says King. "And that's what this is all about."

"People defend the practice of cytoplasmic transfer by talking about saving dying babies," he says.

"It's emotional blackmail, really, that goes on in all these debates. Because people don't want to acknowledge that you already have a perfectly safe technique to avoid these risks to babies: egg donation."

He adds, "Basic medical ethics tells us that you don't take significant medical risks unless there is a significant medical benefit. You wouldn't normally subject a child to so many medical risks unless there was no alternative."

Besides, he warns, cytoplasmic transfer is similar to cloning — with the potential for similarly disastrous results.

"We've seen this with the cloned farm animals," he says. "In very many of those cases, either the embryos don't develop at all or the fetus died before birth, or at birth. Or they have grown to twice the normal size. There have been all kinds of problems."

( "'3-Parent Babies': The Future of Babymaking? April 25, 2013) 

The fictional account of man's journey into creating life is the stuff of Mary Shelley in hter famous novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. The good doctor himself utters these lines in Chapter 3 as he relates how his chemistry professor, M. Waldman, ignited in him an irrepressible desire to gain knowledge of the secret of life.

"'So much has been done,' exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein -- 'more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.'"

The assertive quality of  Dr. Frankenstein's statement foreshadows the fact that his passion will not be tempered by any consideration of the possible horrific consequences of his search for knowledge. He is content to foray into unknown knowledge to “pioneer a new way” and to make progress beyond established limits.

Why stop at 3-parent babies? Is four too few? Is fifteen too many? Who determines what needs to be accomplished and what needs to be forbidden?

The FDA? I shiver to think about this. God help us all if the ultimate cloning decisions rest in the bloody hands of the Big Pharma controlled governmental body responsible for the widespread epidemic of opiate addiction. The work smells of profits, lobbyists, and an honest desire to control the demographics of America through conscious manipulation of lawmakers. Go ahead, call me an alarmist and a crazy man, but first, read the facts for yourself.

I'll end this entry with the words of Dean Koontz, American author who has sold well over 450 million copies of his suspense thrillers such as Demon Seed, Invasion, and Strangers. Koontz relates... 

"... it seemed to me appropriate to update the Frankenstein legend to our time. We live in hubristic age, when politicians imagine themselves to me messiahs and when many in the sciences frankly discuss their dreams of creating a 'post-human' civilization of genetically engineered supermen, ignorant of the fact that like minds have often come before them and have left no legacy but death, destruction, and despair." 

Just remember, many assume the living dead creation was the monster Frankenstein, when, in truth, Frankenstein was the monstrous doctor who created the poor, wandering outcast. Mercy, mercy.
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