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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Should you create a life to save a life?
Charlie Whitaker, whose younger brother was conceived in the hope his stem cells could treat Charlie's rare form of anaemia.
A baby conceived in America after his parents were denied fertility treatment in Britain has been born in a Sheffield hospital.

Michelle and Jayson Whitaker selected baby Jamie's embryo so that stem cells from his umbilical cord might be used to treat the life-threatening anaemia his older brother suffers from.

"All we did was change the odds from a one-in-four chance of a tissue match to a 98% chance. There was no selection of the basis of colour of eyes or hair or sex," Jayson Whitaker told the Daily Mail newspaper.

Is it right to give unwell children a chance to lead normal life in this way? Should the treatment be made available in the UK?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Parents like these should be congratulated!
Emma, England
I think it shows undoubted love for a child. Would you not also want the very best for your child? The child coming into the world will be loved as much as any other child they may have. Parents like these should be congratulated!
Emma, England

Taking stem cells from a child still in the womb does not harm it, so why is this treatment not available? The only thing that could be called into question would be whether or not the couple had the child solely for use of its stem cells. That would be wrong.
Omide Deinali, UK

This debate is a typical example of the problems faced by science. Something that could save lives or throw medicine into a new era, and it's rejected by the old institutes because it doesn't fit into their view of society. Yes, life should be created to save life. Just as GM crops should be used to feed those with nothing.
James M, Scotland

What parent wouldn't do whatever possible to save their child? Yes, I think I would create a life to save a life. I would do just about anything to save my child and so would most people.
Kylie, USA

I fully understand the parents in this case and believe the courts here were wrong in their ruling
Gerard Baird, UK
I don't class this as a designer baby. Its genetic makeup is as random as the genetic makeup of any of the other fertilised eggs that were tested. Selection already exists in I.V.F. treatment, were embryos are rejected because of imperfections. I myself have a slight case of spina bifida and dread the thought of being rejected if a test was carried out on me. However I fully understand the parents in this case and believe the courts here were wrong in their ruling.
Gerard Baird, UK

One can be for or against it, but it is a decision that the parents must take, not the those in the public who have healthy kids.
Patrick C. Vandervorst, Belgium & UK

The fundamental process behind this successful birth must be condemned
Peter, UK
I am happy it worked out well so far in this case. But no, producing children for spare parts devalues children and human life generally. The consequences of this are only felt gradually. Of much greater concern though are the embryos generated for potential selection and then dumped if 'unfit'. Life begins at fertilisation - all other definitions are arbitrary - thus the fundamental process behind this successful birth must be condemned.
Peter, UK

What have ethics to do with this? As a loving parent, you will do anything to save, or take the pain away from your child. Maybe being an atheist and having no religious prejudice, I see life with a much clearer prospective.
John H, Australia

I don't think this is right. It's fine to ask someone to donate, but not to have a baby just to use its cells. What happens if the new baby isn't compatible? Will they have another baby?
Hilary, Scotland

I don't think that anyone is in a position to judge unless they have faced the same dilemma themselves
Jan Andersen, UK
It's strange how the people who make harsh judgements against those who create a life to save a life are those who are blessed with healthy children. I know that if any of my children had a condition whereby the only chance of survival would be if I had another baby, then I would not hesitate to try and conceive. It would not mean that the new baby would not be loved and cherished in the same manner as my other children. I don't think that anyone is in a position to judge unless they have faced the same dilemma themselves.

In November last year, my eldest son tragically took his own life. If I had been told beforehand that his depression could have been cured by using stem cells from the umbilical cord of any new baby, then I would not have given a second thought to trying for another child.
Jan Andersen, UK

What's the point in developing this technology if we're not allowed to use it? People who describe this as immoral ought to think about the boy who's life will be saved. I expect this second child will grow up loved, so what's wrong with it?
Joe , England

Having a healthy child is every parents dream and aim
Tony Parker, England
Having a healthy child is every parents dream and aim. If those opposing this action were in a similar position I wonder if their opposition would be as strong?
Tony Parker, England

Parents who carry genetic disorders should be allowed to do this. Parents with sick children who need a donor should be allowed to do this. As long as it's not used for cosmetic, cultural or religious purposes I don't see a problem with it.
Christine, UK

I fail to see a moral dilemma posed by such a noble venture in a world where cluster bombs are left strewn for children to find or where same sex couples can utilise identical technology to conceive children with anonymous donors.
Dr Exmond DeCruz, Australia

They were denied treatment in the UK not for ethical reasons, but to save money. I think its disgusting that in a modern, supposedly first world economy, there would ever have been a discussion on this.
James, Australia

Moralising over these types of issues doesn't solve anything
John, Australia
There are many abhorrent things in this world, murder, rape, child abuse...they still happen. Moralising over these types of issues doesn't solve anything, if it can be done it will be done. We should spend our time creating the controls and checks that make sure it happens for the 'right' reasons, whatever they may be.
John, Australia

All I can say is you have no right to judge until you are a parent. When a mother has carried a child for 9 months, and formed a bond, there is nothing that she would not do to save her child. I would have done the same in her situation. No parent should ever have to suffer their child's death.
Sarah, USA

We live in world where its become acceptable to sacrifice a life in order to save a life - as in Iraq. So why not create a life to save a life? The real question is, what will happen to this new baby? As long as the child is expected to grow up as normal and lead a normal life, then this becomes acceptable and should be allowed in the UK.
Sri Raghavan, UK

Will it only become acceptable because it is possible?
Richard Cummings, UK
When I was a child we had hand-me-down clothes. Is the future of brothers and sisters going to be hand-me-up genes? Will it only become acceptable because it is possible?
Richard Cummings, UK

I don't think any of us are really qualified to comment on this subject. How many of us have really had a living child that needs something that can only be provided by a genetically selected sibling? I think that if people found themselves in such a situation their attitudes would become positive pdq.
Guyon Roche, UK

I will never be able to understand what anyone in this position would be feeling. The problem is that it is a small step into somewhere that I do not want to see us go. Mankind should say no when the choices become abhorrent, but I have serious doubts that we will.

They brought another child into the world to help their first live. Some might say that is selfish as if they wouldn't love their second child as much. Isn't it selfish to have your own children to satisfy your maternal/paternal instinct when you could adopt one that has lost their own family? Swings and roundabouts...
Chris, UK

There are so many unwanted pregnancies that the state ends up paying for. Why should anybody worry about a few designer babies, especially when they are conceived in an attempt to save another child's life?
Bruce, The Netherlands

It is easy to raise the issue of ethics but maybe not so when you are in the parents' shoes. If my child was in danger I would protect him and if he was dying I would give my life.
Jide Johnson, UK

Opponents of this particular situation should be prepared in 15 years time to sit these two boys down and explain to them why one of them should be dead and the other should never have been born at all. I'd be interested in what they intend to say.
Andrew Carter, UK

This may be life saving [but] the moral side must not be forgotten
Markus, Wales
As with all new technologies this is just the beginning. Although this may be life saving, the moral side must not be forgotten. As a scientist myself, I know that moral implications of progress are not thought about. It is about time to think not just what is possible and brings profit but also what is human.
Markus, Wales

This is a perfect example of why the "against God's will" argument is totally wrong. What ethical Creator would stop a parent saving their child??
John Smith, UK

The narrow minded law makers who think cloning, GM Foods and gene therapy is evil are lucky that they do not have children with Diabetes, prone to sickle cell anaemia or told that because of their parents' genes they will not live past 50. Humanity must look at what is good in these procedures and stop resisting what will ease the suffering of future generations of humans.
John, USA

There are many good points to both sides of this argument. On one hand, it does give the unwell child a fresh start and a ray of hope. On the other, what becomes of the child born in these circumstances? Imagine being able to save your child by bearing a second. Not only do you then have the first child to love and to keep in your life, but you are blessed with a second as well.
Jon Lipscombe, UK

We have absolutely no power over this
Jan, Scotland
What does it matter what we think? It will happen eventually whether we like it or not. Look at GM crops and cloned sheep. I believe we have absolutely no power over this.
Jan, Scotland

Saving another human's life is a great gift. I do not think that this sensible and responsible use of genetic selection will lead to frivolous cosmetic use.

The question should be what right do others have to stop these parents trying to save their child?
Rob Read, UK

Yes to both questions. There is nothing more important to a parent than the life of their child. The Whitakers have done what any loving parent would do, what I would do. They've saved a life by creating a life. How anyone could suggest that this is anything but good is utterly beyond me.
James, England

It must be devastating to have organisations campaigning against you trying to save your child
Laura, UK
I don't think anyone is in a real position to comment until they have been in similar circumstances. No-one can imagine the pain of seeing a child extremely ill. It must be devastating to have organisations campaigning against you trying to save your child's life or ease their suffering.
Laura, UK

I find it hard to be definite about my opinion in cases like this. Although obviously some children need something to be done, what if they happen to die anyway? The parents may end up resenting the younger child because they placed so much hope on him saving the older child. This could cause psychological trauma, and is unfair on the younger child. Let's hope that in this case, the hopes and prayers are answered, but the ethical issues need to be considered carefully in every situation like this.
Dawn, UK

People who are against this are likely to use one of two arguments. The first is that of playing God, which is an irrelevance to anyone who is not a believer. The second likely argument is the fundamentally flawed slippery slope concept: That this will inevitably lead to babies selected on the basis of eye colour etc. This is not inevitable; mankind can say no when the choices become abhorrent.
Dan, Bristol, UK

I understand the agony of these parents but bringing another child into the world seems to me the most dangerous thing they could do as surely the chances are high that this baby will have the same genetic defect? God forbid.
Anon, UK

Improving a child's health is good, but at what cost? We don't want to find that the sole purpose of children in this world is to provide spare parts to their older brothers and sisters. Then they will be second rate citizens.
Anon, UK

'Designer baby' ban quashed
08 Apr 03  |  Health
'Zain has a right to life'
31 Mar 03  |  Health


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