In this paper I will discuss what exactly pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is and multiple moral theories apply to it. The moral issues surrounding PGD are autonomy and Utilitarianism. After that I will discuss the possible problems that the use or PGD could cause in today’s society.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is a process in which embryos are tested to detect certain genetic characteristics during in vitro fertilization. There are three main disorders that can be detected through PGD. The first are sex-linked disorders. The mother’s abnormal X-chromosome is passed on to the son instead of the father’s regular chromosome. These disorders affect only sons, but girls can become carriers of an abnormal X-chromosome. Some examples of sex-linked disorders are hemophilia, neuromuscular dystrophies and Rett syndrome. The second set of disorders is single gene disorders. Disorders in this category contain cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and Huntington disease. The last group of disorders is chromosomal disorders. Chromosomal disorders are caused by chromosomal mutations. The process in which the embryos are tested is very complex and has multiple steps. The couple must already be in the process of IVF, or in vitro fertilization. The first step of PGD is ovarian stimulation. Ovarian stimulation is used to create multiple eggs. The second step is the harvesting of the eggs. Although the procedure is short, the woman is put under anesthesia and the eggs are surgically removed. The fourth step is the fertilization of the eggs. A single sperm cell, gathered the day when the eggs are harvested, and placed into an egg. The next step occurs the day after fertilization. The eggs are examined for 2 pronuclei, the signs of fertilization. The embryos become 6 -10 cell entity and at that time a single cell is removed for the genetic testing. From this one cell a lab can tell what genetic traits the embryo will have. The last step, if the parents choose an embryo, is the implantation of the embryo. An embryo that has gone through PGD has only a 20% chance of being born.
On the surface, PGD seems like it will be able to completely eradicate multiple diseases and disorders and have a very positive effect on society. Children will be born healthy more often than not and live full, happy lives. However, the reality of PGD is not so simple. There are many ethical issues that PGD cannot solve.
Discrimination is one of the biggest issues surrounding PGD. It is a multifaceted problem, which in my opinion, cannot be overcome. There are several groups that PGD discriminates against. First and foremost PGD is discriminatory of the disabled community. The purpose of PGD is to be certain that the embryo does not have any disabling traits, therefore we must try to define what a disabling trait is. Of course disorders like Huntington or hemophilia should be called a disability, but what about deafness or the like? To one family a deaf child may not be wanted, but to another such a child would be perfect. In The Disability Rights Critique of Prenatal Genetic Testing there are three main points why prenatal testing, which covers PGD, is discriminatory towards the disabled: “(1) Continuing, persistent, and pervasive…