‘Medicine’ babies

Genetically Selected embryos to save siblings

In February 2011, doctors in France announced that the country’s first ‘medicine baby’ was born. The baby was conceived through in-vitro fertilization, and the cells were screened in order to ensure that they could be used to treat the older siblings who have a genetic disorder. This baby at the embryonic stage was selected among twelve embryos to ensure that he was not a carrier for the gene that caused his two siblings to have beta-thalassemia which is a fatal blood disorder. The umbilical cord blood can be a valuable source of stem cells to provide treatment cells for the siblings’ disorder. A similar case of this kind of ‘saviour sibling’ was announced in the United States in 2000.

The French pro-life group Alliance pour les Droits de la Vie says that the baby “was conceived, not for himself, but for another… this is a serious attack on its dignity that poses strong risks of psychological repercussions, especially if it disappoints”. The group suggests that there may be an ethical alternative by using umbilical cord blood from existing stock. Even though the intention is to heal a child, another child “is chosen according to somebody else’s objectives and other brothers and sisters are destroyed that do not comply with this project. This is a particularly pernicious form of eugenics.”

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