In Vitro Fertilization is the process in which eggs from a woman’s ovary are removed and fertilised with a man’s sperm in a laboratory dish. The fertilised eggs are then inserted into the woman’s womb in the hope that the embryo will mature. “Designer babies” by definition, are created by the process of genetically modifying an embryo to ensure the presence of a particular gene or eliminate a particular defect. This is initially done through the process of IVF followed by a selection of a particular embryo according to the preference. Teaching such a complex and sensitive subject can be daunting, but hopefully TrueTube can help you out here. With no less than 8 films tackling this vast topic from different angles, you should feel more at ease when introducing it to the classroom. Religious, non-religious and medical views come from people who have had personal experience of this medical technology in one way or another. The most powerful film for me is the one that explores the first designer baby in Britain and how this extraordinary little girl saved her brother’s life. I have linked the film just below the text.
Designer babies and IVF evidently highlight different ethical issues but they both face the argument that they are unnatural processes and therefore should not be carried out. If the medical world stamped out IVF because they did not want to ‘play God’, my twin sister and I would not be alive today. I owe my life to the hard work and intellect of these scientists and strongly believe IVF to be a blessing, undoubtedly bringing happiness to so many couples. My parents were told they could not have children for years, and eventually had a successful third round of IVF.
On the subject of designer babies, my personal opinion is that genetically modifying an IVF embryo to avoid an inherent disease can be justified. It cannot be truly understood without being in the shoes of parents with terminally ill children. However I think we must avoid genetic modification for any other reason than the prevention of severe inherited disease. I believe that anything other than this abuses the very point of the process and takes science far beyond the ethical boundaries we should live by. I am very lucky to work for a company which aims to educate young people about such a powerful topic, and strongly recommend these films to start up thought-provoking debate amongst your students - whatever their opinions may be. It has certainly given me a chance to reflect on the miracle of IVF in my own life and how I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it hadn’t been discovered. But what do you think?