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Should people who are carriers for genetic disease be allowed to procreate?

  1. Jun 4, 2009 #1
    Especially people who carry autosomal dominant horrific diseases like Huntington's disease. Should these people be allowed to procreate when there is an extremely high chance that their children will suffer from terrible disease in the future?
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 4, 2009 #2


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    Autosomal dominant diseases are a different issue, but many recessive disorders are thought to confer some advantage to carriers who are heterozygous but not homozygous for the mutant allele. The classic example is sickle cell anemia; people with only one copy of the sickle cell gene have an increased resistance to malaria.

    Now, technology can help alleviate the problems associated with genetic disorders. For recessive disorders, couples can get screened to check whether they are carries for some of the same diseases and provide the necessary information if that does turn out to be the case. It may also be possible for couples at risk of producing an offspring with a genetic disease to perform in vitro fertilization and screen for embryos lacking the disease (of course, there are important ethical issues with screening embryos, but that's another topic entirely).

    One important ethical concern regarding the problem is how are "genetic diseases" defined, and who defines them? Obviously there are some very horrible diseases like Huntington's disease and cystic fibrosis, but not all diseases are so bad. For example, would something relatively innocuous like color blindness be considered? What about something like phenylketonuria, which can cause severe problems if left untreated, but with treatment sufferers of the disease can live relatively normal lives?
  4. Jun 7, 2009 #3
    The problem here of course is that evolution is not a great chain of being and does not progress on a global scale. Something can only be said to be beneficial or deleterious compared to a specific environment. For instance, there is a very good reason why we don't just kill all 'natural' potatoes and put out an 'artificial' genetically engineered super potato.
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