In-vitro fertilization and genetic testing are increasingly used, including in Canada, by couples capable of conceiving naturally, to screen out not just catastrophic diseases but other ‘undesirable' conditions. Will the future see a genetic elite rise above the messy, natural masses, and is that so bad?
One expert says, ‘Our next major leap of evolution … will be one that we control.' Seang Lin Tan, a renowned fertility specialist at McGill University who worked with Britain's IVF pioneers, agrees that the technology comes with tricky ethical issues. To him, the most vexing is whether embryos should be discarded for carrying disease genes that may not have an effect until well into adulthood.
Dr. Tan, also medical director of the Montreal Reproductive Centre, dismisses as “a lot of hype” the fear that couples will use PGD to make blond, blue-eyed babies. But he sympathizes with those who fear that the future may bring, say, breast cancer: “If you have this disease in your family … and you're doing PGD anyway, I think it's reasonable.”