Andrew J. Imparato
With the mapping of the human genome, potential for improving the quality of life for people with painful and degenerative conditions has brought new hope in many circles. To be sure, the prospect of cures and disease prevention has widespread appeal. Yet are we ready to use genetic engineering to prevent the birth of any baby with Down syndrome, dwarfism or genetic forms of deafness or mental health conditions? What about genetic predispositions for cancer or Alzheimer's disease? Who decides?

Last month America marked the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark civil rights law recognizing that disability is a natural part of human diversity that in no way should limit a person's right to make choices, pursue meaningful careers and participate fully in all aspects of society.

The ADA stands in marked contrast to some deeply troubling U.S. history that some in today's biotechnology industry and many bioethicists have not completely abandoned.

At the turn of the 20th century, the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, launched a pseudo-scientific movement known as "eugenics"...