A new survey published in Science magazine shows that 28% of prospective parents would support editing the genes of their child’s embryo through IVF (in vitro fertilization), if it would boost the child’s chances of getting accepted into a top university.
“According to the survey results, 38% of respondents said they would genetically screen IVF embryos for predicted academic achievement while 62% would not. Another 28% of respondents said they would edit genes of IVF embryos to boost a child’s chance of acceptance at a top college, while 72% said they would not,” reported Kevin Jones of Catholic News Agency.
On Feb. 10, Science/AAAS, a peer-reviewed research journal, published, “Public views on polygenic screening of embryos.” The survey was designed by bioethics personnel and economists to gage public opinion on in vitro fertilization and genetic testing before embryos were implanted in the womb.
The survey was conducted by an online panel run by the University of Southern California where more than 6,800 Americans took part in the January 2022 Understanding America Survey.
As the article explained, participants were asked to assume they were already taking part in IVF and that the genetic manipulation of the embryo offered a free and safe way to increase their child’s chances of attending a top-100 university.
The participants were informed that their embryo had a 3% chance of getting into a top college, and then asked whether they would manipulate said embryo to increase the chance to 5%.
Twenty-eight percent “said they would edit the genes of IVF embryos to boost a child’s chance of acceptance at top colleges,” reported the Catholic News Agency. Seventy-two percent said no.
In the abstract portion of the study, Science magazine states, “For decades, people have used genetic information to exercise control over the kinds of children they will have. These technologies have largely targeted chromosomal and monogenic disorders and traits; but most human phenotypes are highly polygenic (and influenced by the environment).”
The majority of participants in the survey rejected the idea of manipulating embryos. However, a significant minority said that editing the genetics of an embryo is a good decision for such a minimal increase.
John F. Brehany, executive vice president at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, spoke with the Catholic News Agency about the study.
“The genetic screening of embryos is a sanitized form of eugenics, not different in principle from the exposure of subpar babies that took place in Roman society,” he said.
“Because genetic screening takes place in Petri dishes, no one witnesses the acts of callous judgments or the death of those rejected. And so the barbarity of the practice is not appreciated,” added Brehany.
The bioethicist also criticized the use of IVF, in which several embryos are made in a petri dish and then inserted into a woman’s womb. Dependent upon how many survive, often only one is selected to stay and grow in the womb while the others are removed and then frozen, studied, or discarded as medical waste.
IVF “separates the origins of human life from the setting designed by God — the environment of consensual, committed marital love of a man and woman,” said Brehany.
“Moreover, IVF has increasingly been separated from marriage itself — through practices such as the commercial trade in human gametes and making assisted reproduction available to non-married persons,” said Brehany. “Once outside this supportive structure, many other considerations take precedence over the dignity of human life and love, from ‘success rates’ to costs to personal preferences.”
As a consequence, IVF is viewed by some observers as a form of human trafficking or slaver, where children are essentially purchased and “designed” by IVF clinics.
According to Forbes magazine, “A single IVF cycle—defined as ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and embryo transfer—can range from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on the center and the patient’s individual medication needs. Medications can account for up to 35% of those charges.”
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