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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Should we create a life to save a life?
A British woman is to give birth to a baby genetically designed to provide tissue that could help her four-year-old son in his battle against leukaemia.

The Guardian newspaper reports that the woman, who has not been named, travelled to the US to take advantage of IVF technology that is not currently permitted in the UK.

A bone marrow transplant from a genetically-identical sibling could spare him a lifetime of blood transfusions, or even prevent an early death.

However, opponents say that the procedure would create a designer baby produced for spare parts.

Should creating a life for the purpose of saving another be allowed?

This debate is now closed. Read you reactions below.

This is just a logical progression

Steve Cahill, England
Why do we give blood - to help save the lives of others. This is just a logical progression. The child is not being offered as a sacrifice to save the life of another, it will have a life of its own as will its older sibling. This actually justifies IVF in some cases, in most cases IVF is an unnecessary drain on the NHS.
Steve Cahill, England

It's surely obvious to most people that this example of create a life to save one is both ethical and to be seen as a great product of gene manipulation. However, it's the implications that this may have for the future and a brave new world of designer babies. It will be argued that if it's O.K. to create a child to save another then it's O.K. to choose hair colour, height etc. to give everyone an equal start in life. In my opinion I see this as dangerous and deeply concerning but almost resign myself to the fact that it will happen. Scientists have already started working on the possibilities while there are no laws governing the research that takes place. As Professor Hawking said, not all labs can be monitored.
Brad, England

It's hard to say. Logically, I'd say this goes against natural evolution. But, since we evolved towards the ability for technology, it can change us, as well. It would depend on what kind of "tissues" they need. Were the couple going to have another child anyway? If a sibling gave tissue to another sibling, it would be acceptable. However, it just feels wrong to produce a child solely for the reason of medicine - the second child is still a human being and it would be horrible to think of a person used as "spare parts". But I can't say, though, because I'm not in the situation.
Phgnome, Canada

I'd sooner have the news broken to me that I was brought into the world partly to save the life of a sibling than to find I was brought into the world as a result of my teenage parents getting drunk and not taking precautions.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

In the worst case the child could be seen as superfluous.

Chris Kirtley, UK
To be conceived to save another life is too great a burden for any child to bear - imagine if it the first child is not saved! And surely the child deserves to wanted for itself. If the treatement is unsuccessful this unborn child will start life as a massive failure. If it does work, saving the first child becomes a major part of the other child's identity - and in the worst case once the first child is saved the second could be seen as superfluous.
Chris Kirtley, UK

Once more, a lot of high moralistic souls are preaching their word. I wonder what they would really do if they had the opportunity to save their 4-year old from death. I know what my heart would be cying to my head... soul-less or not.
Bill, UK

Gentic engineering could become the next penicillin or the next atom bomb. Depending on how we use it, it could save humanity, but it could just as easily destroy it.
Rod McEwen, UK

How many children are 'unplanned' in the world? Do they feel worthless?

Ruairi, UK
Surely it is better to create a life, in order to save a life, than to take thousands of lives in order to avenge 6000 needlessly lost elsewhere? As for Rafi's comments that a child may feel worthless - how many children are 'unplanned' in the world? Do they feel worthless? Life itself is precious and full of worth - and to be born partially to try to help a sibling is a most noble thing - and the child will surely never be short of dinner party conversation...
Ruairi, UK

What has happened to survival of the fittest? Possibly these new genetic disorders are emerging because so many weak and damaged babies who would normally die are kept alive by any means possible and then go on to reproduce. We will end up with a weakened species.
Kate, London, UK

This sounds like a nightmare whatever the people you interviewed say. How is the child going to react to being brought into being to save his elder sibling? What if he later has some medical complications that can be linked to his unique genetic makeup? Think of the feeling of worthlessness he will carry with him all his life if the procedure fails.
Rafi, Israel

Incredible hubris will be our downfall yet. What will be the legal status of these new people? After birth, will they have a voice in whether they will be used in this way? Do we classify them differently so they have no choice by law? How do we resist characterizing others, less human than ourselves by our fallible judgements, in this way for our own convenience? We, as mere humans, have proven through history that God is the only power able to make these decisions in perfect justice. Shall we now go where angels fear to tread?
Art Brown, USA

All over the world children are brought into existence to work and feed their parents

Jon Livesey, USA
Let me get this straight. All over the world children are brought into existence to work and feed their parents. But we're going to object if one saves a life?
Jon Livesey, USA

This will simply mean another baby being born to loving parents. The saving of a brother's life as part of the process is a welcome bonus. What greater gift can a new sibling bring?
Gisela, UK

I only hope this mother loves her new child as much as the other and is not scared to tell it when it is older the reason for it's conception. This child will find out and the whole family will have to deal with the consequences of that truth coming out.
Richard H, UK

Conceiving one child to save another is a far more noble reason

Ron, USA
For centuries people have created a life to work on the farm, carry on the family business, or make themselves feel worthwhile. Or, they do it by accident. Conceiving one child to save another is a far more noble reason.
Ron, USA

The issue is respect for the second child's rights once it is born. This second child is a human being, with equal rights as any one of us. To forcefully subject that child to donate bone marrow to his brother, no matter how noble a cause that may be, is wrong. No one should force the child into donating, just as they shouldn't force you or me into donating a kidney. That fact is that the parents see the second child as something they can use to save their first child, and are dismissing the fact that the child might not want to have such a procedure. This issue of whether or not they want the second child anyway is irrelevant. The parents have every right to conceive a new child. They don't have the right to forcefully manipulate his body to save their other son.
Chris Macneil, USA

Allowing this technology means babies produced to order with a specific tissue type. During the process any embryo, which does not meet that requirement will be discarded. If that is not designing a baby I don't know what is. The end may well justify the means in this case but we should not let a particular case blind us to the wider implications.
Jane, Cardiff, Wales

Yes, creating a life to save another life is better than the disappearance of a life, donation after death, to save a life. The process also shows how much the parents care for the four-year-old and undoubtedly they love children.
Ong Peony, Wales

A baby born to save a life has more purpose than any other

Olly, Birmingham, England
Yes creating a life to save a life is good. It is arguable that killing people is worthwhile to save people (war on terrorism), so if no one is hurt and a life might be saved then go ahead. Most babies are born because the parents want a baby. A baby born to save a life has more purpose than any other. Saving lives is good. Please explain how this is wrong!
Olly, Birmingham, England

It's not having a baby to save another child that's the main issue here. If the parents wanted to conceive a child naturally, and were willing to accept him or her unconditionally, whatever his or her genetic profile, that could be O.K. The problem lies in children being literally manufactured by means of IVF and then discarded, like factory rejects, if they can't be used as donors.
Helen, U.K.

All the people who consider this procedure unethical seem to have lost sight of what ethics are for: to preserve and promote life and the freedom needed to enjoy it. I say as long as the second child is loved (and surely he/she would be loved more for being such a gift to another!) stop the whining. Freedom of choice should not be surrendered simply because we are afraid of making decisions. We might screw up but that's how we learn!
Paul Connor, Canada

Let's give this family a chance of happiness

Jenny Radcliffe, UK
Clearly these people are loving parents to their current child, trying to do what is best for him. I cannot imagine that they will not also be loving parents to this child, whether or not it proves successful in helping its brother. Is it the first step on the slippery slope? Possibly. But to mix my metaphors a little, let's cross that bridge when we come to it and give this family a chance of happiness.
Jenny Radcliffe, UK

A parent will and should always do whatever is within their means to protect their children. It does sound barbaric to say that the second child is only created to save the first, but both children will still receive the same love, devotion and security. It is the same as deciding to have another child so that the first is not lonely, being an only child. What I do strongly disagree with is gene manipulation. The first few cases can be morally debated and won, but as soon as one child is allowed to be altered, other less rewarding cases will follow.
Michelle, Botswana

This is simply another example of human beings treating other human beings as commodities. There will be no peace at home or abroad so long we treat each other so. Actions such as the ones described in this story are surely motivated by selfishness and an inordinate fear of death.
Ryan, USA

It's not a designer baby, please be more serious. Using the embryo this way is no different from plastic surgery: doctors cut part of one's flesh to seal a scar elsewhere on one's body. We have seen kidney transplants within the same family. So why not save the sweet boy's life?
Stella Kirenga, Uganda

No human being can create a life

Saleban, UK
The way you asked the question is wrong. Because no human being can create a life. This procedure is unethical, and those scientists trying to do this only want to have power (money and title). The mother who wants to save the life of her sick child should know this procedure is not 100% effective.
Saleban, UK

I would sincerely hope that this couple "want another child anyway" and not that this child is being produced solely to help its sibling. If this couple are able to conceive normally then why should they use IVF treatments to tinker about with their second child's genes? It is a dangerous path to start along. I fear that the boundaries of what is considered acceptable will continue to be stretched in this way until "designer" babies become reality.
N Watson, Germany (ex UK)

Once again the international idiots are on the warpath, or do the press deliberately seek the stupid people in the world? "Baby produced for spare parts." I believe I saw this report on TV, and these people want another child anyway, so what is the problem if you can save your other child by this selection? Good luck to them. This is not the thin end of the wedge. This is modern life.
Martin, UK

See also:

15 Oct 01 | Health
UK 'designer baby' first
04 Oct 00 | Health
Baby created to save older sister
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