Ethical Implications of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the genetic testing for chromosome abnormalities, is becoming increasingly popular. Women choose this type of procedure in conjunction with in vitro fertilization treatment (fertility treatment by mixing sperm and eggs outside of the uterus, and then implanting them into the woman’s uterus to create a pregnancy). This method of testing can be performed with advanced aging and wanting to conceive without the complicated risks. Also, parents with a history of genetic diseases may opt to have this test done. Healthy embryos can be frozen for later use. However, ethical implications may exist with this type of embryo cells testing.

Sex Selection

Although using the preimplantation genetic diagnosis for sex selection is uncommon, it is still performed and continues to gradually grow. An ethical issue can arise when determination of the gender of a child can be known and selected to balance family. There is also the risk of gender discrimination. Could this introduce other “social selection” possibilities later in time?

Now, sperm sorting can be done for artificial insemination, and without the need for in vitro fertilization for some.

Medical Benefit for the Wealthy

Not everyone can afford the high cost of a preimplantation genetic diagnosis, thereby possibly limiting a medical benefit. This is especially desired by those that have a history of family genetic abnormalities. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis normally costs about $10,000 to $18,000. Even after spending a great deal of money, there is no guarantee that results will be successful. 

The "Designer Baby"

The idea of tinkering with genes is bothersome for many, as it is what people are made of. Many worry that this type of process could become a method to “select physical traits for cosmetic reasons”.

The Possibility of Error

Determining the genetic results from only one cell of an embryo of many cells, offers the chance for error. Medical studies indicate that errors do occur with this type of testing.

Religion and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis

Certain religious denominations disapprove of this method of testing, as they feel it is the destruction of human beings. Also, some may find that in vitro fertilization may be regarded as an unnatural way of creating life.

Misuse

Many individuals believe that preimplantation genetic diagnosis should only be used to detect serious genetic diseases that could be passed on and cause a loss of life. When this process was first introduced in the early 1990s, it tested embryos cells to discover the sex to prevent Duchenne muscular dystrophy from being transferred via the male embryos. Only female embryos would be passed on to avoid the possibility of an offspring carrying the disease, as it affects mostly males.

Presently, some clinics offer screening for over 400 hereditary conditions that are being tested by the preimplantation genetic diagnosis method.

Some medical professionals utilize this procedure to increase the rate of successful in vitro fertilization treatments and pregnancies, while there is no medical data proving the overall improvement of pregnancies with the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis.