On BioScience and Life and Such

Posts Tagged ‘slippery slope’

Errors in ethics of genetic sorting

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

Six day old human embryo implanting
Image by Hljod.Huskona via Flickr

The traditional ethical reasoning when it comes to embryo-sorting, is that sorting out embryos with a certain condition diminishes the value of those already born with this condition. Consequently, by this way of thinking, a selected embryo must have an increased value. The selection itself (the absence of a given condition) increases it’s value over any other embryo in the pool of embryo-candidates.

Using the following arguments one can see how this is a logical error.

All human life is valued equally, must have equal rights and must be paid equal respect. This is regardless of how it was made (sons of bitches are as valuable as sons of kings) – these concepts are straightforward, uncontroversial and commonly held by enlightened people.

It follows that the process of sorting is irrelevant to the value of the selected embryo. The human that is born has equal value to any other human, not more – not less.

How then, can this human born out of selection in any way influence the value of anyone else ?

Answer is: he cannot and he does not.

Sorting is not a process that creates or changes value. Not for humans, not for animals, not for any object. The value is assigned later and is usually set by arbitrary or fixed rules. Gold is worth more than silver due to scarcity, a race horse is worth more than a donkey due to the size of potential revenues. Nature does the sorting of humans (decides which individuals who will mate and when they mate, decides whether the fertilized egg will implant and so on..). We have striven to assign equal value to any and all life that is born, even if it is sorted by nature’s sometimes chaotic set of rules. We have reached the point where all civilized people agree upon equal value for all.

Us taking charge in the sorting process does not change that. Sorting is consequently not unethical in terms of human value. Sorting only becomes unethical if it becomes mandatory by rules set by others than the parent(s). The right to say no to sorting is vital. If the right to say no is respected, then embryo sorting is ethically uncomplicated.

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Tests that make me sad (updated)

In Uncategorized on February 29, 2008 at 10:46 am

In a previous post (“Clarifying misuse of Science“) I expressed concerns over Prenatal testing for familial hypercholesterolemia. Now it seems I should have included two more (and in my mind, – more controversial) tests approved in the UK for preimplantation testing preceding IVF. These are tests for breast cancer (BRCA1) and early onset Alzheimer.

Especially the case of BRCA1 worries me. True, the prevention (mastectomy) is a horrible ordeal for the patient, but is this sufficient grounds for excluding eggs for IVF ? Can’t you live a reasonably happy and normal life after such a procedure (see breast reconstruction) ?

Why haven’t there been more fuzz around this ? Is everyone going to be using prestested eggs in IVF now ? And what are the limits on acceptable tests, will testing for athletic performance become an exclusion criterion soon ?

I must have been naive to so strongly oppose the slippery slope argument in genetic testing discussions up until now. I wish we could restrain ourselves a bit more, but fear that we can’t.

The solution is to come up with treatments for most of these conditions (although treating athletic performance may constitute a problem in terms of the number of people needing treatment as well as treatment alternatives…..).

Treatment alternatives need to appear soon if we’re to avoid the brave new world future that critics of the genetics era have been promoting …..

The “find a cure” process however, is not going to be fast and in the 10-25 years to follow, those concerned couples that have the option of BRCA1 and Alzheimer testing will most likely not take the chance that a treatment will be found in time for their child to be cured…….., – and opt for the safer pretested egg and IVF.

Seeing that the slope is becoming slippery I have decided not to argue for genetic testing any further, and if this trend continues, – argue against, at least until treatment options appear (the next 25? years) or a sensible limit for testing is drawn (right now, – please).

Tests that make me sad

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2008 at 9:45 am

In a previous post (“Clarifying misuse of Science“) I expressed concerns over Prenatal testing for familial hypercholesterolemia. Now it seems I should have included two more (and in my mind, – more controversial) tests approved in the UK for preimplantation testing preceding IVF. These are tests for breast cancer (BRCA1) and early onset Alzheimer.

I must have been naive to oppose the slippery slope argument in genetic testing discussions up until now. I wish we could restrain ourselves a bit more, but fear that we can’t. Why haven’t there been more fuzz around this ? Is everyone going to switch to using prestested eggs in IVF now ?

A (tricky) solution is to come up with treatments for most of these conditions, – looks like that needs to happen fast if we’re to avoid the brave new world future that critics of the genetics era have been promoting …..

The “find a cure” process of course, is not going to be fast and in the 10-25 years to follow, those concerned couples that have this option will most likely not take the chance that a treatment will be found in time for their child to be cured, and opt for the safer pretested egg and IVF.