Thursday, January 12, 2012


My stomach tightened when I saw the 'sell' for this story about genetic engineering in last weekend's Globe and Mail.

Invitro-fertilization and genetic testing are increasingly used by couples... capable of conceiving naturally to screen out not just catastrophic diseases but other 'undesirable' conditions.

What are those undesirable conditions? One company that screens genes is considering adding the skin condition psoriasis to the list, the article says. The 'undesirables' also include not health conditions, but physical features like short height that don't fit with our North American concept of beauty. We hear about a fertility clinic in Mexico where Canadian and other couples go for IVF -- not because they can't conceive, but because they want to select whether it's a boy or a girl (a 'no-no' in their home country). We hear that on the horizon are DNA microchips that analyze genes that influence height, intelligence, hair, skin and eye colour and athletic ability.

The piece refers to a 2009 survey of 999 people that found that most supported prenatal screening that would result in the abortion of fetuses with serious diseases, along with mental retardation (75 per cent) and blindness (56 per cent). At least 10 per cent of respondents to this New York University School of Medicine survey also favoured improving height and 13 per cent considered it acceptable to screen for intelligence.

The piece begins with this sentence: Humanity has long dreamed of perfection, striving to be faster, stronger and brighter.

Is that your definition of perfection?

To me it sounds a bit like a robot.

What about striving to be deeper, gentler, less judgmental, more kind?

The article notes that "We now have the potential to banish the genes that kill us..."

Isn't that a bit of an overstatement? Isn't the human condition still a fatal one?


What are the implications of this technology and the growing demands for it? Who can really predict?

From the Nuremburg Trials, words of wisdom reflective of a previous tragic time in history when others wished to purify the human race:

"Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedge-in lever from which that entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitable sick." (Leo Alexander)

This makes me want to stick my head in the sand and not come up.

Articles like this make me keenly aware of how far we've wandered away from what really matters in life.

I wonder when will we realize (or perhaps remember...) that perfection has nothing to do with how we appear or what we achieve and everything to do with acceptance, humility, and compassion?

Achieving a life or a home or an outlook where there's room for everyone is perfection, not forcing everyone fit into one mold or one vision.

Hello Everyone,

Tomorrow, January 13, is my birthday. So, with this in mind, I wish to share the following poem in response to Louise's latest post. I humbly thank all who take the time to read it.

May you and your children never surrender!!!


Perfectly Human
By Matt Kamaratakis

I am fragile and strong.
I am silent and loud.
I am misunderstood and brilliant.
I am shunned and accepted.
I am dependent and selfless.
I am scared and brave.
I am unsure and relentless.
I am closed and overt.
I am alone and wanted.
I am mysterious and precious.
I am flawed and extraordinary.
I am disabled and gifted.
I am human and perfect.


Great are right, the human condition is a fatal one...from the moment we are born.

My husband and I went through pre-genetic diagnosis 4 times in hope of having a sibling for Dempsey that didnt carry the terminal dibilitating disease Savannah had.

It was another journey of hope and trauma. And while we did get healthy embryo's, the implantation didnt work.

So I think for families that have a horrific genetic disease such as Metachromatic Leukodystrophy like our daughter did, the option to choose to NOT put a child through such a horrid degenerative disease is an amazing leap for the scientific world and families, the right to choose sex, height etc however is wrong....thats just my opinion however.

We have now chosen NOT to take that chance of trying naturally and having to watch a child change from a healthy one into a child who lives with horrible pain everyday then dies a terrible death. And there comes a time when you have to accept that too.

Thanks as always for your insight and blog.

Diana x

Hi Diana -- I'm glad you posted. I think most people would agree that the IVF and screening makes sense in cases like yours.

I guess what surprised me was the never-ending spectrum of things they were going to begin screening for. And the fact that in the NYU School of Medicine survey, people were in favour of aborting fetuses, in some cases because they weren't going to be smart enough or tall enough.

I'm always surprised when people view prenatal testing (not IVF) as preventative. To me, preventative would be a way of preventing having a fetus with the condition -- not preventing the condition by aborting the child who is already in utero.

Even though I've read quite a bit about your Savannah, I didn't know about the terrible pain she suffered and I can't imagine that.

Thank you very much for sharing! xo