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7 Mar, 2008 03:33

Are ‘designer babies’ next?

A new law which could allow parents to create so-called “designer babies” is being considered by British politicians. But the complex bill, which is meant to reform outdated fertility legislation is causing controversy in certain quarters as r

“Designer babies” are the best embryos, selected over less attractive ones.

British law makers have drawn-up a new Human Tissue and Embryos Bill that’s meant to update old legislation from the 1980s and reflect the most recent human reproductive technology.

Meanwhile, it’s causing controversy. One of the main points of anxiety is that the legislation seeks to introduce the creation of animal-human hybrids for medical research – something which has not been allowed anywhere in the world.

If the bill is passed it would also be illegal for parents undergoing embryo screening to choose an embryo with an abnormality if healthy ones exist. Some disability charities say it would be discriminatory because it gives parents the right to create ‘designer babies’ free from genetic conditions.

At the same time it bans couples from deliberately creating a baby with a disability. It might seem an unusual clause, but a deaf lesbian couple in the U.S. created a baby with hearing difficulties on purpose, choosing a sperm donor with generations of deafness in his family.

“There is a very small number of people who feel it’s their right to have a deaf child. However, if you want to be able to have a deaf child, you can’t have the pre-genetic screening of that embryo because you will not be allowed to implant a deaf embryo over a hearing one,” Emma Harrison, from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said.

Patsy Gorman is deaf and all her children have hearing disabilities. She’s not sure what to think of these new changes to the law.

Her daughter Abigail would prefer to be able to hear but she believes it's not up to parents or doctors to decide.

“I would feel angry if I was designed to be deaf! If I were born genetically deaf, then fine. But if my mother decided to make me deaf, then what right has she got to decide that? I think it’s selfish,” she said.