Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I attended a work related Breast Cancer seminar last night.

The keynote speaker was a prominent Radiologist from the Boston area.

She told a story of a patient that froze 8 fertilized embryos prior to undergoing her treatment for breast cancer. This particular patient tested positive for the breast cancer gene. Approximately two years post treatment, this particular patient got the ok to implant the embryos. Prior to implantation, the patient was able to have the embryos tested for the breast cancer gene. The testing revealed that 4 out of 8 embryos tested positive for the gene. The patient then opted to only implant the 4 that did NOT test positive for the gene which resulted in one baby boy being born that did not carry this gene.

The breast cancer gene does not automatically mean that someone will develop breast cancer, however, the chance is very high - about 80%. In addition to that fact, not all woman that have the gene will get breast cancer and not all women that develop cancer will succumb to the awful disease.

As I sat in the audience, I began to ponder. I thought to myself, "Is it ethically sound to 'cherry pick' when it comes to reproduction? Would I make the same choices as this patient to only implant embryos that did not carry the gene? Do the embryos that carried the breast cancer gene deserve to not be implanted because they MIGHT lead to a POTENTIALLY fatal disease MAYBE? Is it ethical to play God by picking and choosing what traits and genes are desirable? Choosing what traits and genes are undesirable?"

Where do we draw the line?



  1. Wow. This is an extremely emotional topic for sure, but a great one. I can definitely see both sides of the coin on this but have a really hard time deciding which one I fall more towards. A friend of ours is going through radiation treatment and the doctors suggested he freeze some of his sperm before the treatment with the chance they would not be able to have a baby later in life. That - I have no problem with - the guy and his girlfriend (soon to be fiance) are young. Problem being, it's extremely expensive to "house" these sperm until then. They both are studying in the medical profession so this decision was a huge financial burden for a while. I completely understand wanting to have a healthy family - who doesn't want that? But I agree that "playing God" isn't what life is about (no matter how much money you have).
    Sorry if this was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Like I said at the beginning, it's definitely a hard topic to side on.

  2. Although the unknown is scary, I also believe it's exciting, yes, even with the awful things that can happen to us because that's what make us...US! An individual...learning, growing, maturing. I believe in THE PLAN and that God has one. And I even believe this at the worst of times.

  3. I don't believe this example is "playing God." Every parent wants what is best for their child. If a couple is lucky enough to be able to choose a child that won't be affected by a terrible disease, then why wouldn't they. Why would a parent choose for their child to (potentially) suffer? We receive immunizations and treatments to prevent other why not this? I think this is a medical marvel that should be utilized whenever possible. That being said, I vehemently disagree with gender choosing or other irrelevant trait choices such as eye or hair color. So, I definitely agree that there is a line, but that this topic doesn't come close to it. Janel

  4. At this point we play God every day. We have come so far with medicine even the en vitro itself is defying nature. I am in no way against this process. If you are going to go through all the effort of IVF. You might as well spare your child the torture of going through cancer. But that is just my opinion. I wouldn't judge somebody that made a different choice than I would.

  5. I'm going to have to agree with Janel. My thoughts exactly. Nicely put.

  6. I think I'm on the side of those who say why not choose to select against a potentially health-harming gene... After all, women who are pregnant can check for specific genes and decide to abort the fetus (which is a whole other topic)... But the whole thing makes me uncomfortable, for sure. Like you said, where do we draw the line? Health characteristics is one thing... But it seems like a slippery slope to picking eye and hair color... Height... Intelligence... And all sorts of things. And I'm not sure if I'm behind the idea of "designer babies."