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The following case for discussion is from the eText, chapter 18, page 527:
Steven and Marisol are a young married couple who are concerned about passing genetic diseases to their children. Members of Steven’s family have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, an incurable genetic disorder that causes cognitive problems, difficulties with movement that ultimately require full-time nursing care, and reduced life expectancy. Members of Marisol’s family have tested positive for a mutation of the BRCA genes that are strongly associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
At a family reunion, they are discussing their decision to use in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of embryos. Seven’s cousin, Valerie, is appalled. She is opposed to the idea of in vitro fertilization and to the entire idea of genetic screening.
Valerie says, “You can’t just choose the babies you want to have. God will only give you the challenges He knows you can handle. And if a child is born with a disease, your job is to love that child, no matter what.”
Steven is speechless. But Marisol is not. “But if we can guarantee that our child is healthy and will live a happy life, shouldn’t we do that? We don’t want to raise a child who is doomed to genetic diseases.”
Valerie shakes her head. “There is no way to know,” she says. “Kids get sick and die. Some who have diseases get better. You can’t control everything. And besides, that test-tube baby stuff is really expensive. How can you afford it?”
Now Steven replies, “We want to invest in this procedure now because it might save money in the long run. I’ve seen how much Huntington’s costs a family – so have you. I’d rather pay to prevent it now than have to deal with the costs later.”
Valerie responds, “That sounds really rude. It sounds like you resent people who get sick and need your help. The whole thing is very selfish.”
Something to remember: IVF is done to bring a sperm and egg together -resulting in an embryo. PGS will screen these embryos for a potential disease. The only embryos that will be considered for use (implantation) are the disease-free ones. The embryos who have the disease will either be destroyed or used for research. The idea here is not to “cure” the disease, it is the diseased embryos will never be born. Note: This is not a judgement on the process of IVF with PGS; it is the scientific/medical process. With this information, you can fully understand the intended expectations and outcome and thereby give your “informed” opinion.
Questions for discussion – Answer any two of the following questions:
With whom do you agree here: Steven and Marisol or Steven’s cousin, Valerie? Explain.
Is it wrong to want to prevent genetic disease through use of IVF and preimplantation genetic screening? Is it a wise investment? Should it be covered by health insurance?
Is it selfish to want to control your child’s genes? Explain your answer.
What about using IVF for selecting the gender of the baby you want to have? Explain your reasoning.
These options are available to couples today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWhfsiXzmA4