I touched a little on asshat behavior in my last post.. things like the superfertile who swears she would never-ever use IVF because "it's just wrong" even though she can't really know what decision she'd make if she were in a situation where IVF was the only option for her to have a child. I'll preface today's topic (custom-created embryos) by saying that if I were in that position hell yes, I'd go for it. I'm not sure if that makes me more or less ass-hat-ish for what I'm about to say, but there it is.
I've seen a buttload of articles about The Abraham Center of Life and their semi-controversial 'embryo bank'. Now buying/selling donated embryos is nothing new. Sperm and egg donation, also not new. Creating embryos from donated sperm AND donated eggs, made-to-order, that's a new twist on existing technology. to me at least, maybe it's been going on for ages and I'm just out of the loop? but that's totally not my point...
My point is that the option of picking and choosing your child's genetics seems like a slippery slope. It's dangerously close to seeming like picking 'the perfect' child... which makes me hesitant to say this is a good thing.
And here's why I feel like an ass-hat: I could see me doing it. After all, when I met B and decided that I wanted to see a Mini-B with those same blue eyes and dimples, wasn't I sort of picking my future child's genetics? Sure, I was also weighing in his great sense of humor and his personality, but hey, those were also things I wouldn't mind seeing in a child.
So how is it so different for a person in a position to need donor eggs and sperm to choose what characteristics their child may have? Is it the ultimate in eugenics to specify that you want your eggs donated from a healthy, intelligent blue-eyed blond with athletic tendencies .. ? What if YOU are a healthy, intelligent blue-eyed blond with athletic tendencies and you're just interested in trying to have a child who might have something in common with you? I don't think it's unusual to seek a donor who looks like you, or who has qualities that are prized by you. It's not unusual to seek a spouse or partner who has attributes you like, or would like to see passed on to your children, so why is it different with a donor? Perhaps it's because when picking a donor, you are only looking at how that person
That's what people think of when they think of donor selection, if one believes most of the articles out there - people think that by picking a donor who is intelligent and still tall, dark & handsome, you're actually picking a child who will grow up to be a rocket scientist when he's not modelling underwear on the side... I don't really think that's true. Maybe bloggers are different, but I've never read a donor blog that thought like that. I have read some heartwrenching blogs about the decision of which donor to choose, and for all of them, all they're really looking for is a donor who looks similar to them, or to their partner. Or who has similar interests or personality. Just someone with whom they have some connection. Not the perfect genetic component to complete Perfect Embryo.
But I can't help but wonder if someone out there, somewhere WILL use the opportunity to (try to) create a custom embryo as a chance to make the perfect child. I'm sure it's possible. Just like PGD can be used for sex selection (as we've all read so many times) .. But, also like PGD, I think that will be the exception, rather than the rule. Still, I can't shake the feeling that the potential for misuse is there. Particularly when the talk is of selling embryos. Selling implies the ability to pick and choose, which to me, also implies the right to be unhappy if what you've bought isn't exactly perfect. Not a good way to look at a potential child.
So much of infertility treatment is technology which can be misused, or which treads close to shady moral ground... maybe that's the real problem for me. It feels like there are no safeguards in place to keep abuse and misuse from occuring. Relying on the moral and ethical compass of the RE works 99.9% of the time, but that last 0.1% is what worries me. I want to see something that will limit the unethical minority, while not making IF treatments more difficult to obtain than they already are. Preferably before the technology gets too much further ahead of the ethics of fertility.