Prominent and often misleading media coverage greeted the early
announcement of a baby born after the embryo from which he developed
been genetically screened and selected for two different traits.
procedure known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD),
selected, from among embryos produced by in vitro fertilization,
would result in a baby who would be both unaffected by Fanconi's
and able to serve as a source of compatible tissue for his sister,
is affected by the disease.
Many reports referred to Adam Nash as an "engineered"
baby. A CNBC news
show called him "the world's first designer baby."
But the embryo from
which Adam grew was selected. It was not "engineered."
The Nash case in
fact demonstrates that it is unnecessary to engineer, design,
or in any
way modify the genes of a human embryo in order to bear a child
free from a serious gene-related disease.
Other news reports accurately described the procedures used
about Adam's birth, and while supporting their use in this situation,
appropriately raised concerns about a "slippery slope"
to a world of
genetically enhanced children. This prospect is unfortunately
more likely by the confusion between PGD and germline engineering
amply demonstrated in accounts of the Nash case.
The lesson we believe is best taken from this case is the urgency
implementing a global ban on human germline engineering, in
provide a clear stopping place on this slippery slope. Many
but not the US , have already passed such laws.
Another important lesson is the need for effective and accountable
regulation of other human genetic and reproductive technologies.
unlike some other countries, the US currently lacks social oversight
of many controversial procedures. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation
and Embryology Authority allows PGD only at licensed facilities.
must approve each use of PGD, which it does only when there
serious medical condition.
It's important to recognize that PGD and prenatal screening
More on the Nash case:
from unproblematic. Among those questioning them are disability
activists who fear that their widespread availability encourages
intolerance for anyone perceived as having an "imperfection."
oppose human germline engineering, but do not accept PGD or
screening for particular traits. Other opponents of human germline
engineering feel that although PGD can be (and prenatal screening
has been) horribly misused, they are justifiable for the prevention
of serious gene-related disease.