Chilling concept:" Preconception" screening

William Saletan is not a religious person, and his ethics are not informed by any theology, but sometimes he gets the questions right and even the answers.

How long before Western culture and the worlds of Huxley or Orwell become indistinguishable? :eek:

We have far surpassed the expectations of Orwell and Huxley…and it’s a real human tragedy. God must be crying for those he created in his image and likeness. I am ashamed of my generation of scientists who in the guise of trying to help humanity are probably responsible for the downfall of the conscience and ethics. Six babies died so that one could be born that probably will not get breast cancer. Just probably would not develop one form of breast cancer. Things are bound to go wrong when we eliminate God in creation. More reasons to pray, that’s for sure. God help us!

"In sum, at least six human embryos were made and then thrown away because they failed a test. We now call such tests “preconception.” "We can call it pre-conception to make us feel better, but it was really post-conception. They were testing six new human beings to determine which one (if any) deserved to live. They couldn’t have been tested if they had not been genetically complete human individuals.

In this brave new world, it will no longer be necessary to kill off great numbers of people in ethnic cleansings or mass genocides, or to eliminate the less than physically perfect after they’ve had a chance to form lobbying groups. No, it is so much more efficient to kill them off at the very earliest stage, before they can fight back.

I do not see much wrong with this… these procedures seem to have an unlimited upside.


Even if the child had gotten the disease, she would have had the opportunity to enjoy a childhood and young adulthood. She would then have undergone a few years of various kinds of cancer therapy, which was most likely to be followed by a mostly-healthy old age.

These opportunities were taken away from her because of her 40% chance of getting a mostly-curable disease. :rolleyes:

As well as an unlimited downside. My wife’s family carried the VHL gene which can, but does not always, lead to the development of Von Hippel Lindau disease. Now they are all very good and kind people; it would have been a great loss never to have known any of them because they were killed before birth for this one thing.

I daresay that most of us are not genetically perfect. Yet we have other qualities that seem not to be the subject of genetic screening.

In the case mentioned, the children that were discarded did not have a 100% chance of developing cancer; and if they had developed it, it could have been treated. Or even cured. Perhaps a cure would have been found in thier lifetimes. But it will do them no good now, because they are already dead.

as someone who just lost the most important person in their world to cancer, your response disgusts me. these “cancer therapies” as you called them, withered her body, and made her even more sick than she had been, so she decided to just go painlessly by allowing the cancer to take its course, because these “various therapies” and treatments did nothing to stop the spread of cancer. well, it wasnt painless. she slowly lost her ability to walk, falling several times in the process, and then becoming bed-ridden, not even able to clean herself, or control her bowels. she then began to lose her faculties, forgetting where she was and why she was there. it seemed the only concept she had remembered, was that she loved me. she died a painful death just before new years.

you sir, have a sickening view on what a life is worth, and embryos are not life, and if it had been possible to spare my grandmother the pain and indignity she had to suffer, i would have sacrificed a million embryos.

i can only hope you dont suffer a similar fate, tho i think your self righteousness would make it apt.

What type of cancer was it??

breast and lung. i know, considering my earlier post that this sounds odd, but its really hard for me to talk about. she was my best friend, and one of the few reasons i havent killed myself, and now shes gone, and i dont feel anything. i dont feel grief, and despite being a very christian and very good woman, i dont know where she is, because we made a deal in her last days. she told me shed talk to management, and see if she could give me a sign that theres a point to all this.
she hasnt.


I watched my grandmother die this way also. As sad as it made me to be the one that cared for her I have come away with a totally different view.

If my grandmother had never been born my wonderful mother would not ever have existed and this would have been a loss that I can not even comprehend. If my mother had not been born my brothers and I would not exist. If we were not born then our wonderful children that are involved with medical research (Alzheimer’s in particular for my daughter) would not be working on cures for others or on designing medical equipment that will help many.

So in my case I thank God that grandma lived as did all her ancestors. Each and every person conceived was and is someone important to the future of this world and the one to come.


My condolences on your loss. But do you really think it would have been better for her never to have been born at all? Because if she had not been born, then neither would any of her children, nor any of their children, including you.


Please discuss the issues and not each other

Please post charitably

  1. i was adopted
  2. i have no idea what youre talking about. all i said was if it had meant shed live a cancer free life, then its totally worth it, where does her never being born come into it?

In the case of the OP the pre-born babies were destroyed (read killed) when they found they “could” get cancer in the future. That is where we got the “never been born” scenario. This is not a case of future cure for the a person born. It is the elimination of possible “effective” babies prior to birth.

What if the unfertilized egg could be screened for the BRCA mutation? That wouldn’t be a morally wrong thing to do, would it? If the mother of the child was known to have the mutation (and the father presumably known not to have it), then if in some way the mother’s eggs could be screened, and one without this cancer-causing mutation selected for fertilization, would that be such a bad thing? The morally questionable aspect of the original procedure is that it involves creation and destruction of fertilized egg cells, which we consider humans; an unfertilized egg is just a cell, and its destruction is no moral dilemma, right?

Some women with this mutation have prophylactic mastectomies (and perhaps hysterectomies) because of the high chance of getting breast cancer. It is understandable why they would not want to pass on the disease to their own offspring.

well, thats not a real argument then.

Actually, from a Catholic moral standpoint, it would be wrong to create a new human being outside the context of marital relations. In this case, all the embryos were created in a test tube, not in their mother. Then they were tested, and the ones which had the mutation were destroyed. The one without a mutation was implanted.

So there are really two moral problems:

  1. Creating life outside of the marital act.
  2. Destroying newly created life.

Also, it bears repeating that the procedure is not a cure for this particular type of cancer.
It cures nothing. All it does is destroy embryos that carry a particular gene.

I think that genetic testing for individuals–i.e., parents–is available for a number of genetic diseases.

Why test an unfertilized egg? It has no chance of being fertilized in any legitimate way as invetro is not licit.

I am not sure about if a prophylactic hysterectomy under these circumstance would be considered medical need or not. I do believe in genetic testing if there is a specific defect a couple wants to screen for so they will be prepared for one of God’s special deliveries. :wink:

At this point this is not really scarey. This is test-tube baby stuff if I understand what I read correctly, and 90% of babies are still made the old fashion way, that is, outside of a lab.

Where it becomes scarey, actually where it becomes slow-motion suicide for mankind, is when they can eliminate genetic defects AFTER conception, easily and inexpensively. If that ever happens then , if past history is any guide, it will only be a question of a short time until we start engineering the master race ( though we won’t call it that ) in order to keep up with the jones’s , or because the tyrannical majority decides by vote that to forebare manipulating the child creating process constitutes " child abuse ".

But, There again, that would just be another nail in the coffin.
AT THE PRESENT TIME all that is left of human dignity and freedom is in the gaps where technology and resources are lacking. For example, if there is not a camera mounted in your bathroom so the police can watch you, do you really think that is because your neighbor exercises self restraint, or respects your life? :rolleyes: No, it’s because puting a camera in every bathroom would cost too much, and how many people would you need to watch all those cameras ? With even rural counties having battalions of police the expense is wrecking our economy, and thank god it is.

Well, Orwell hasn’t happened & isn’t going to, it’s Huxley now.

I used to subscribe to Analog science fiction magazine and years agao they had stories with the implications of tech like this – insurance refusing to cover children who had not been screened, children hating parents who had not had then gengineeered so they were the only “normals” in class, &c. Of course those stories were set 50-100 years in future.

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