December 6, 2006

Dwarfist, Deaf Parents Down With PGD

[Q: Is Dwarfist a word?]

A recent survey of 190 clinics offering Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis, or PGD, found that in 3% of cases, PGD was used to select embryos with a particular genetic anomaly, not without. Those cases were either for deaf parents or when one or both parents had dwarfism. Both are genetic differences that have developed rather distinct, complex cultures, histories and identities that parents are not willing to just erase with a test.

Fascinating question, and I have to say, I think they're onto something. The ethical issues and potential eugenicist monkey business that PGD opens up are still too uncharted to make a definitive judgment, and the idea of proactive ordering up of genetic characteristics [vs the avoidance of serious or terminal genetic defects] seems tricky at best. But all health issues being equal, in a society that values and encourages 6-foot blondes at the expense of 3-foot brunettes, the problem to be solved is not the short people.

Wanting Babies Like Themselves, Some Parents Choose Genetic Defects [nyt]
Clearly I need some new material: 9/06: You down with PGD? No wait-and-see?


If I had the opportunity to select for a genetic mutation that gave a sense I don't have -- say, that magnetic resonance thing fish have, or sonar -- for a future kid, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It really wouldn't bother me in the least that this would make them somewhat culturally different than I am.

As a physician myself, I must agree that the purpose of our training is to avoid disease. Selecting against hearing and normal stature does not avoid disease it supports it. Deafness and dwarfism are genetic mutations that occur naturally so not selecting for them will not decrease the natural rate of their occurence.
So by not supporting PGD selection of these types of trait we are not decreasing the rates of dwarfism or deafness worldwide we are just not artificially increasing them.

I am not a tall blonde. Perhaps they too envision themselves as a having heritage or discrete culture of their own that should be preserved.

I am sure if any parent presented to a clinic wanting "a child like me" and wanted (although we are not able at this point) to select a child with similar hair, height and eye color to the parent moral outrage would prevail.

This is a wonderful procedure. For families who have CF or Huntington Chorea this is a blessing knowing that you can aid them in having a child that is not doomed to illness and early death.
Yes, I realize that there is the problem of financial segregation but one must start somewhere.

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