Brave New World Dawning

Since 1978, reproductive biologists have helped couples overcome infertility by using increasingly sophisticated techniques for generating and manipulating human embryos in the laboratory. At the same time, molecular biologists have been working to overcome human disease by deciphering the entire sequence of the human genome and constructing tools to correct genetic and cellular defects. While reproductive and molecular biologists focus on unrelated medical problems - infertility and disease - combining their technologies produces reprogenetics , which will allow us to design ourselves.

Reprogenetics will enable prospective parents to give their children genes that they themselves do not carry, thereby increasing their offspring's chances for health, longevity, happiness, and success - an appalling prospect for many bioethicists. But is reprogenetics simply a new and more powerful vehicle to repeat the abhorrent eugenic practices of the past? Or are reprogenetics and eugenics fundamentally different from one another in terms of both control and purpose?

Eugenics embodies the desire and attempts of a society's leaders to control the breeding practices of its citizens, including the forcible sterilization or murder of those deemed as carrying undesirable genes. Reprogenetics, by contrast, is concerned with the question of what genes an individual child will receive, not with the vague, unscientific goal of improving a society's gene pool. Moreover, it gives control to individual prospective parents. While eugenic practices led to a restriction of reproductive freedom and worse, reprogenetics can do the opposite. It could help parents have children with a higher likelihood of being healthy, without bringing direct harm to anyone else.

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