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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May, 2005, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Should 'designer babies' be allowed?
Lab technicians
The House of Lords has ruled that the creation of "designer babies" to treat siblings with genetic disorders is lawful.

The case centred on an Appeal Court decision in April 2003 which overturned a ban on the use of IVF treatment to help save a critically ill boy.

Zain Hashmi, six, from Leeds, requires the treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a debilitating genetic blood disorder.

However, campaigners claimed the practice of tissue typing to create babies to help siblings was against the law.

Do you agree with the House of Lords' decision? Do you think parents should be allowed to create babies to help sick siblings? Is it right to use tissue typing to create a baby in order to treat a sibling? Would you consider it?

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

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

People who opt for such treatments should pay a tax to the government
Harry Lee, London, England
If designer babies were outlawed, doctors would find ways to flout the law, so you might as well allow it. But I believe people who opt for such treatments should pay a tax to the government, which would go straight into providing better service in the NHS. If people are so keen to design their kids, they should be prepared to pay for it.
Harry Lee, London, England

A lot of people say that the "designer babies" won't be loved as much as the ill children. Who is to say that these parents don't want other children anyway?
Gareth, Cardiff

Of course they should! The stem cell baby will be even more precious for representing two lives in one. And, as someone else has commented, medical intervention has deemed it fine to kill (late terminations due to Down's etc), so why not use technological progress to cure. It is pompous sophistry to bang on about this somehow devaluing people with handicaps. Everyone should be valued for what they are, and if science can bring about the miracle of a cure for a child in the form of a by-product of creating another, wonderful life, then it should be welcomed.
CCC, England

In this specific case, I do not have much to say against embryo selection. I do have concerns about possible effects on the child, though, especially if the treatment planned is unsuccessful. Parents can put immense pressures on their children to fulfil certain desires, how much more so in cases such as this? My biggest concern, however, is that the use of embryo selection will not stop here. This is a first step on a pathway which could very easily take in eugenics along the way. What are we letting out of the stable door?
JonG, Huddersfield UK

Children are not a commodity, neither are they a right. They are individual human beings, and are not to satisfy their parent's wants or needs. Neither are they spare part factories. There are always hard cases, but the rights of the "designer" baby fundamentally must come first, not the needs of parents or siblings.
Bernadette Kerbey, Norwich, Norfolk

The only reason this should not be allowed is if in the long term it would negative effects on health of the "designer baby". And we won't know if we don't try. But opposing such scientific advances on religious basis is like going back to 16th century. Why not believe that earth is centre of the universe.
Akhil, College Station, Texas, US

Most parents have a second child for the benefit of the first child because they feel it is better for the child not to grow up alone. This isn't all that different.
Sylvie, France

The embryos are deliberately created and then destroyed and discarded like medical trash
T Johnson, Worcestershire
The real problem is, the embryos are deliberately created and then destroyed and discarded like medical trash. They too are little human beings.
T Johnson, Worcestershire

Of course it should be allowed. I have seen my daughter dying of thalassaemia major. No one can understand what parents goes through, seeing the child dying slowly and we can't do anything for them. I wish Zain and his family every success.
Asha, Leeds

This should not be allowed. Everyone as a human being has the right to choose whether or not they want to be a donor. Having a baby purely to use its blood or cells to help another is taking away its basic human rights. We need to learn to live with the fact that we cannot cure all diseases.
Joanne, Glasgow

I cannot understand these people who think that any baby would be engineered - it is selection of the one which best fits the criteria. The child would not be any less valued than if it were a completely natural child. This should definitely be allowed.
Tom, Guernsey

Of course anyone in the Hashmi's situation would want to so the same, but that's not the point. People in desperate situations don't think rationally and that's why the law is asked to intervene. I'm surprised at the House of Lords decision as it's clearly not in the best interests of the yet to be created child.
Lol, Scotland

Science for many is a religion with no limits concerning, morality, ethics and spirituality
John, Alaska, USA
Designer baby implies perfection or latest fad. A more appropriate term is that these are spare-parts babies. When will we start manufacturing the perfect race? Science for many is a religion with no limits concerning, morality, ethics and spirituality. Unfortunately history has proven long term affects of science can be disastrous.
John, Alaska, USA

The main issue, in my opinion, is not the designing of the child but the potential abuse of that child's rights when he or she is born. This child does not choose to help Zain but he or she does suffer the consequences. In this case the medical intrusion to the baby's wellbeing seems minimal but what happens when the child has to suffer repetitive medical intrusion to help his or her sibling. In the same circumstances though I imagine I would do whatever was necessary to help my sick child and I would love all my children equally, whatever the circumstances of their conception.
Hannah, Guiseley, UK

Whilst agreeing that the procedure should be allowed it does seem to place an incredible responsibility on the second child.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

I don't agree with creating a "designer baby" because it is messing with genetics and nature. In the past nature was left alone and there was no need for designer babies and now because scientists have started messing with genetics, there is now the need for designer babies to put right the mess they have made.
J Price, West Midlands

Although it is a tragedy for any child to die there has to be a control for population
RN, London
As a father I can certainly comprehend the want to save your child's life by any means possible, and as a parent I would give my life to save my child's, period. However, nature has mechanisms in place for a reason and although it is a tragedy for any child to die there has to be a control for population on the planet. If we save everyone, find that miracle to stop getting old, how long will it be before the planet cannot sustain human life and the starvation etc that we see now in third world countries spreads. Although I am happy that this family have been allowed this opportunity to save their child's life should this be the exception as norm.
RN, London

I thought eugenics had been consigned to the dustbin of history. Obviously, I was wrong because it is evident there are people out there who do not care a jot about the sanctity of life. Yes, these procedures could be used to save the life of siblings. But the process involves the cultivation of suitable embryos which invariably leads to the destruction of those which do not meet the criteria of the operation and which are otherwise healthy. How can this possibly be any better than letting nature take its course? Alas, the end never justifies the means.
Dan, Strathclyde

Regardless of the specific case modelled, the people of Britain have just been informed quite simply that it is legal to have a child subjected to a known risk of hereditary disease (aborting it, of course, if it's not useful) for the primary purpose of exploiting it. That is the true slippery slope. Whether or not one agrees with designer babies at all, we have taken one step closer to designer slavery by generating people to be used as parts and exploited.
Dan Fearnley, Oxford, UK

It seems to have bypassed many people that beta thalassaemia major is a treatable condition. The proposed bone marrow transplant (which has unpredictable results and may not cure the condition) means Zain will no longer have to have treatment. Therefore the provision of this baby is not necessary to save Zain but to improve his quality of life. That is a very different proposition to saving him and changes the perspective of the argument. A designer baby to make life easier? This can't be a good idea. What would be better is to find a bone marrow match and Zain does have time.
JP, London

I defy any parent to simply watch their sick child die, knowing that a so-called designer baby could save their life. Sometimes we have to say that although we wish there were a better way, sometimes we have to accept that the end justifies the means. I wish Zain's family every success.
Paula, Malton, UK

What is becoming of us as a nation if we cannot value the lives of our own babies?
Mrs G Duval, High Wycombe, England
How can it possibly be right to deliberately create a human being for the benefit of another? A human being has an intrinsic value in his or her own right. What is becoming of us as a nation if we cannot value the lives of our own babies?
Mrs G Duval, High Wycombe, England

We've already permanently abandoned survival of the fittest, thanks to modern medicine. Zain's parents must absolutely be allowed to proceed. This is no different than arguing over whether to permit a child to be administered antibiotics.
Catherine, Vancouver, Canada

Many parents in this situation would have another child on the off-chance of it being a match for the sick sibling. Surely the guarantee of such a match can only be of benefit to both the family and the new baby?
Shalimar, Nottingham

In answer to the question of how a child would feel to have been created to save another, I would say that as long as the child felt loved and secure they wouldn't even think about it. Any parents strong enough to go through the trauma of IVF whilst caring for a sick child has more than enough love to give!
Kim, Essex, UK

Being against this practice is being quite narrow-minded. If technology allows for us to cure somebody, then we should seize the opportunity and do it.
Jamie, Leicester, UK

The whole process reduces human beings to objects to be used or thrown away
Mrs C Underwood, Cambridge, UK
Selecting one embryo conceived in vitro involves destroying others. The whole process reduces human beings to objects to be used or thrown away. Of course we must work to reduce suffering and seek cures for illnesses, but not at the cost of trivialising human life.
Mrs C Underwood, Cambridge, UK

Embryo selection is not genetic engineering by any means. If anything, surely a child who was the key to curing their sibling would be more valued, not less.
Damian Leach, UK

My brother has the same disease as Zain, he is 10 years old. It should be allowed because it can save people's lives. I hope this will become successful!
Safia, Bradford

Which of these morally-supercharged campaigners would like to tell a six year old boy that they would rather he died than was saved by technology? And why should a brother or sister whose stem cells are used feel any less special and loved than a sibling who is a living donor to a brother or sister in a case of renal failure?
Anne, Glasgow

As a parent in this position there would be huge temptation to take advantage of the technology
Elizabeth , Oxford
Imagine growing up as the 'designer baby', knowing that your sole reason for existence was to help cure your sick sibling. Wouldn't that be damaging to the designer child? Of course, as a parent in this position there would be huge temptation to take advantage of the technology, but that does mean that it's right.
Elizabeth , Oxford

To these people who say no. What if it was your child? Would you let your child die for the sake of your principles which might not be theirs? If my child were ill I would do anything within my power to make them well. No parent should have to bury a young child if it can be prevented. And if anything a child brought into this world to save a brother or sister would only be cherished more. It that is possible.
Rachel, Doncaster UK

This practice should not, in my view be legal. It is inherently immoral. Life should not be created scientifically with specific criteria to enhance existing life. The law should not allow this can of worms to be opened.
Fiona Bell, St Andrews, Fife

I can't see what the problem is, the designer baby will be helping to save a life and still have a good life themselves. It's not as if the baby will be born, used and then dumped. This is progression at its best.
Lianne, Cannock

God gave us our brains and the talent to advance like this
Rich, Coventry
Messing with nature? Survival of the fittest? We're only as strong and healthy as we are now because we've used advances in medicine to prolong life. I'm sure when antibiotics were first used, some people regarded that as messing with nature. And as for playing God, He gave us our brains and the talent to advance like this.
Rich, Coventry

Why not? Let's be honest, part of the reason people have children is to secure provision in old age. Having a child to help a sibling is not different. I would feel flattered if I found out I was conceived to help another human being on Earth. Wouldn't anyone? And saying that parents would not love a designer baby is simply ridiculous.
Steve, London

Designer babies should not be allowed. This is because you cannot play God and go against the natural order of the world. Some people may not believe in God but still that does not mean it is right. Just because you have the knowledge to do something does not mean that you should do it. Suffering is a part of life and sometimes we have to accept it. A harsh reality but true.
Sebastian Hobot, Barry

This is so wrong. These people aren't making a designer baby; they're making a spare parts bucket. What about the created baby? It may well be loved, but is quite often created just to endure possible years of painful operations to help save the live of a child that nature has decided should die. What if the sick child still dies? Will the created baby be blamed for not being of good enough quality?
Jason, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

I object to calling them designer babies
Linda, UK
I object to calling them designer babies, they are not. They are just selected from a collection of embryos so they can help cure a sibling. Specially selected babies would be a far better name. And of course it should be allowed.
Linda, UK

This procedure should be allowed. To all those that oppose it, what would you do if your child's life was hanging in the balance?
Gemma Hyde, Swindon

What would happen if the treatment didn't work? How could the parents convince such a designer baby that their life wasn't an abject failure?
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Isn't it about time we stopped playing God? How would you feel if you were bred simply to save your sibling? It can all go seriously wrong and is bound to cause serious emotional issues with the children.
Emma, Winchester

Anything that further cheapens life should be banned
Jim, Epsom
Anything that further cheapens life should be banned. Sounds like a simple humanitarian act to permit designer babies and in many cases today it is, but it also a big step on the path to disposable babies.
Jim, Epsom

Remember the two deaf lesbians who found a congenitally deaf man to father their child to ensure it was deaf. If that is legal, then how can having a child that will be both fit and able to help its sibling be wrong?
Simon Mallett, Maidstone

Of course it should be allowed. Religious reasons shouldn't enter into it. As for the argument about playing God, any kind of medical treatment could be classed as playing God. The logical end to that argument is that there would be no medical treatment and we would let nature take its course, where only the fittest survive.
David, England

Designer Babies is a foul term for a worthy medical technology. Parents will not be creating babies to match their shoes.
Paul Schleifer, Chiswick

This option should be available but with great scrutiny
Cat, Cambridge, UK
I think that this option should be available but with great scrutiny, how will it affect the designer child if they feel the only reason they have been brought in to the world is to cure another, not to live their life as they want, but to be donors to another.
Cat, Cambridge, UK

Absolutely not. Allowing people with genetic disorders such as this to survive into adulthood is interfering with evolution. Evolution depends on "weak genes" (ie those in people with diseases like beta thalassaemia) not being passed on: those with these diseases would die "in the wild" without medical intervention and that is how things should be. The only way to eradicate such terrible diseases is unfortunately to prevent these genes by being passed on by not artificially assisting the survival of those carrying them.
Clara van der Akker, London, UK

I think that too many people oppose this because they don't understand it. This will not lead to future disorders, far from it, it can help eradicate them from gene pools completely. I'll bet anyone that says it should be banned because its 'not natural' does not have a child who could be cured through this. Think of the pain and suffering that could be stopped through this treatment? And one for those who are religious - how did we find out about this treatment? If you believe in a god and miracles, then why is this not a miraculous gift from god that we can save thousands of lives? As legend has it 'god moves in mysterious ways'. As long as it doesn't lead to cosmetic designer babies it can only be good.
Laurence, Dunstable, UK

Two arguments against: 1) it reduces all of us to mere commodities, only born so that our bits can be harvested for our beloved siblings, while we are otherwise totally unwanted by our parents. 2) Nature sorts itself out so that the species survives. Birth of people regarded as "defective" in some cultures is nature's way of keeping the gene pool clean - not immediately but in a couple of generation's time.
Stephen Brooks, York, England

I wouldn't say I oppose the idea of designer babies yet, but I am deeply uncomfortable with it. I don't think anyone can foresee the outcome and therein lies the danger. My problem is with the idea of creating a human life with the express purpose of saving another one, not to have an independent existence of its own. I have to wonder how such a child will feel growing up knowing that they only existed to allow their elder sibling to live. That could be crushing.
Katherine, London, UK

We're not dealing with people wanting babies of a certain height, eye colour or sex here. Merely a certain tissue type. Deciding to do this will not have any effect on the child being "designed" and could save his/her sick sibling. To allow that sick sibling to die because some people get the heebie-jeebies around science is far more criminal and morally irresponsible than tissue typing a child ever could be.
Ellie, Edinburgh, UK

It's a hard one. I think if anyone had a child that was dying and there was a way to save it, it would be hard to deny them that chance. However, I do not believe we have a right to play around with embryos. Life begins at conception. Any discarded embryos (which always happens in IVF situations) is actually a form of killing and when it is done as an outcome of human selection because one embryo is better than another - then this cannot be right. It is not for us to decide who lives and dies - only our creator can make that decision. What we need is for people to understand that God puts them in situations for a reason.

My child has cancer. If I knew he was going to get it...would I have had him aborted. No, no, no. He is loved beyond words. We need society to be more accepting of people, particularly those with handicaps, and not always searching for perfection. This is a dangerous path and will, one day, lead to foetus' being aborted for minor imperfections. Humans have choices. Embryos don't. We should make the right choices and unfortunately this means that children will be born with incurable diseases, but in looking to make them better, we should not be playing God with other children - even in the beginning stages of life.
Sue, Surrey

There is absolutely nothing wrong with selecting embryos based on metrics such as intelligence, genetic compatibility etc. People who believe that 'interfering with nature's course' is wrong have no real concept of the science behind this. They're not actually altering the genetic structure of the foetus, they are simply selecting the best choice. There is a small probability of this happening anyway but intelligently choosing the most intelligent and physically able embryo will not only benefit that family, it will ultimately benefit society.
Paul Robins, Manchester, UK

Contraception was at one time taboo and is now recognised as necessary
Alan Glenister, Bushey, UK
Medical science marches on. Why not have designer babies - at least they will be what parents want for whatever their reasons. Contraception was at one time taboo and is now recognised as necessary in an overpopulated world.
Alan Glenister, Bushey, UK

If anything, this is even more justifiable than conventional IVF treatment, because it cures an already-living person's illness, rather than simply adding to the population. However, somehow it must be assured that the parents will love the 'designer' sibling for his or her own sake, even if the worst should happen and the treatment for the older sibling fail.
Candy Spillard, York, UK

I do not think this practice should be allowed. It is a sad fact, but we have to accept, that some people cannot be treated. I think it is more sad though, that many children are born worldwide who are made ill and killed by poverty and the unfair distribution of the world's resources.
Katharine Friedmann, Leicester, UK

I don't understand what the problem is. It's not like they're being created as an accessory and the term designer baby is misleading and sensationalist. It's not playing God, it's an advance in medicine which can save lives and create a new life that is just as loved as it would have been if conceived by chance, perhaps more so. If it were my child I would definitely do it if I had the option.
Emma, Brighton, East Sussex

Playing around with this natural phenomena could have devastating long term effects on the human race
David Hilton, Huddersfield, UK
I think messing around with nature can be quite dangerous because the world is this way because nature has taken its course. The phrase "survival of the fittest" comes to mind here and that's how the human race is now healthier, stronger and more intelligent. Playing around with this natural phenomena could have devastating long term effects on the human race allowing genetic diseases to multiply exponentially.
David Hilton, Huddersfield, UK

I see no problem in a couple having IVF treatment being allowed to choose which embryos to implant, regardless of their reasons. However, choosing to have a baby purely in order to treat someone else is a different matter entirely. The choice to bear a child and bring it up should be made for that child's sake, not another's.
Claire Melton, Aberystwyth, Wales

This is a very hard decision to make although I think it is acceptable to help sick siblings. It must be so hard to see a child waste away when there is a chance. Saying that, if House of Lords does rule in favour I hope it will be tightly regulated.
Ric, UK

To be honest, I think there would be less of a furore around this issue if the soundbite-style term "designer babies" were used less often. They're not expensive items of clothing, they are babies that are almost certainly going to be loved and cared for perfectly well - I should imagine most couples who take this route would have been planning another child anyway, so why not ensure that the child is going to be able to help their sibling? The alternative is for parents of sick children to have baby after baby in search of the perfect match - this would surely be a bad idea?
Rhiannon, Cardiff

Representing the more acceptable face of human genetic engineering, surely more time, effort and government money should be put aside for stem cell research. However, the notion of creating living donors, whose very raison d'etre is the salvation of others is likely to remain a morality conundrum for some time to come. If it were to be given the go-ahead one would, at least, hope that abuse of such technology would stop short of a Saturday afternoon retail experience in which prospective parents choose sex, colour, abilities and physical characteristics from an Argos style catalogue.
Patrick V Staton, Guildford, UK

As long as the "designer babies" are not more than a clump of tissues there is nothing wrong in using the method to save the life of a child or a grown up. In future when medical science advances maybe it will be possible to treat any medical condition by way of using genetic treatments. For now, it is alright to use this method.
Srinivasan Toft, Humleb, Denmark

Allowing this move is a simple humanitarian act
Peter, Nottingham
It is perfectly legal to abort babies for medical reasons and has been for 40 years. If the foetus tests positive for Down's syndrome, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Huntingdon's disease the pregnancy can be ended. Even many of the people who oppose "abortion on demand" agree with this policy. Rather than ending a life, in this case the Hashmi family want to create a new life which will also save an existing child's life. There is no reason why they won't love their new child as much as the first. Allowing this move is a simple humanitarian act. It will save life, not end it. Those who oppose it for "religious reasons" should remember that Jesus healed the sick and even brought one man (Lazarus) back from the dead. I can't imagine the son of god having a problem with curing a sick child.
Peter, Nottingham

Certainly not. I think this is absolutely absurd. Modifying nature's course will lead to further and more severe disorders in the long term.
James Anthony, Nantwich, Cheshire

If the parents are already planning to have more children and if by having one 'designed', that baby wouldn't be sick and would be able to aid the recovery of their sibling, I see no problem in this.
Naomi, Surrey

I do believe it's time that designer babies should be allowed, we live in the 21st century where technology is getting advanced and better. Parents would do anything to save their child even if it means breaking the law or playing God. No parents would like to bury their own children.
George Nipah, London, England

If people don't agree with designer babies they should conscientiously decide not to have them, but to deny other parents and children the chance of a full and healthy life is selfishness of the highest order. The choice of having a designer baby should be available with parents deciding if they want one or not. It should be a matter of individual choice.
Martin, England

Designer baby row goes to Lords
07 Mar 05 |  Health
Zain's quest for a donor
24 Nov 04 |  Breakfast
'Designer baby' ban quashed
08 Apr 03 |  Health
Q&A: Test-tube lifesaver
08 Apr 03 |  Health


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