Monday, June 30, 2008

British docs say breast-cancer patients should never have been born

Think about the women you know who have suffered from breast cancer. Would the world be a better place if they never had existed?

Yes, say British doctors—not in so many words, but in their mission: killing "unfit" embryos that carry an increased risk of breast cancer, so that a woman may fulfill her dream of the "perfect" baby.

The Times of London reports that six unique human beings were destroyed for the benefit of a choosy would-be mother:

Doctors screened out from the woman’s embryos an inherited gene that would have left the baby with a greater than 50% chance of developing the cancer.

The woman decided to have her embryos screened because her husband had tested positive for the gene and his sister, mother, grandmother and cousin have all had the cancer.

The couple produced 11 embryos, of which five were found to be free from the gene. Two of these were implanted in the woman’s womb and she is now 14 weeks pregnant.

By screening out embryos carrying the gene, called BRCA-1, the couple, from London, will eliminate the hereditary disease from their lineage.
If every would-be mother had chosen to have this expensive and invasive procedure done to "eliminate the hereditary disease from [her] lineage," no woman you know who suffered from breast cancer would exist.

The media portrays embryo selection as though it were a "cure" for breast cancer. It is not. It is an end to human beings who may develop breast cancer.

There is a difference, and I am afraid we may find out about it too late. Unless good people speak up, insurance companies will continue to pressure doctors to pressure women to have preimplantation genetic diagnosis for Down syndrome and other conditions that would be costly to treat, while doctors will likewise encourage women to combine PGD with expensive IVF treatment. In time, those women who do have breast cancer or other "eliminable" hereditary diseases may come to be seen as "useless eaters."

What many seem unwilling to admit is that "choice" has consequences—for individuals and society at large.