human embryos be screened for genetic defects? Page 2
Zinser investigates this morally thorny issue.
History illustrates that many of our most
famous names possessed a less-than-perfect complement of genes.
Beethoven's mother, at the time she was pregnant with him,
already had several children: three were deaf, two were blind,
and one was mentally retarded. If she had had aborted the
(also congenitally-deaf) Ludwig, the world would now be a
musically poorer place. He's not the only famous person to
have been born less than perfect. Aristotle suffered from
epilepsy, as did Vincent Van Gogh. The poet and philosopher
Homer was blind from birth. Toulouse-Lautrec suffered an incurable
congenital bone disease. Stephen Hawking has motor neurone
disease. One may wonder whether their handicaps played a part
in driving them to excel so magnificently in other areas.
Many of us (with FAP or without) might not
be here if we had been genetically screened out by our parents
for things that we suffer from today. How many of us would
prefer to not have existed at all? We: may not be: famous,
but I bet we're all happy to be here.
Life is all about risk. Whether we realise
it or not, we spend most of our lives minimising risk. We
choose: a salad over chips to reduce our risk of obesity and
coronary heart disease. We put our seat belts on to reduce
the risk of death and injury in a car crash. We teach our
children to read and write to (ultimately) reduce their risk
of poverty in later life. The more certain a risk is, the
more likely we are to do something to minimise it.
And this is why the families with FAP have
been sanctioned to screen genetically against the disease
that they carry: there is a very high risk that any chid carrying
the FAP gene will develop the disease, and many of them wish
to minimise that.
The Red Lion Group has a significant number
of members with FAP, making the issue particularly relevant
to us. So where do the answers lie? Is generic screening the
ultimate solution, or can it bring its own and complex issues?
Ultimately, is it right or is it wrong? Socially desirable
Genetic screening and embryo selection is,
to the many who carry the genes for debilitating and fatal
diseases, a godsend. It offers an escape route, a hope for
freedom from a curse that you and your children don't deserve.
People that are affected say it's easy for those who morally
object to screening to pontificate, but unless you have actually
experienced the vulnerability and torture of watching your
children suffer or die from something you unwillingly gave
them, it is unfair and inappropriate to comment on the rights
and wrongs of those who do suffer.