Babyboom in the Kingdom

17. October 2006

In today's England, especially private reproduction offerers benefit from the medical undersupply - and that in a range of two-digit millions. But they still want more. The progress in embryo research is tempting and offers new forms of application. How about a designed baby on demand?

Parents want "Designer-Babies"

Here, a recently presented study comes right on time. One of the results was, that British couples would "up-grade" the IQ of their children if that was possible. This poll was one of a kind in Great Britain. Target was to ascertain the attitude towards "Designer-Babies" respectively reproduction technology across all social levels. Dr. Simon Hampton , psychologist and head of the study, presented the results at the BA Festival of Science in Norwich. His resume shows, that the request for "Designer-Babies" is very present in England. And: Men as well as women accept genetic interventions for medical purposes.

Education bolsters confidence in "designer medicine"

How would you design your baby? The answers were quite different, depending on age, sex and socioeconomic rank. Some of the most relevant results of the study, stated by the University of East Anglia: The higher the educational level, the higher the willingness to have designed babies. More than men, women see in genetic manipulation a "designer act". Fathers put more emphasis on their children inheriting their own characteristics – also due to insecurity about paternity. Regarding the desirable characteristics people distinguish between the sexes. Older and childless women tend more towards "improving" physical, social and intellectual criteria

Design by embryo selection put to test

The term "Designer-Babies" originates from the US. In the year 2000 the first test-tube baby as a stem cell donor caused a sensation in the local media. The blood from the umbilical cord of the new born Adam Nash healed his sister Molly, who suffered from Fanconi-anemia. Targeted genetic embryo selection, know as pre-implantation diagnostics (PID), is what makes that possible after an in-vitro fertilization.
Little later, the first "Designer-baby" as cell donor was born in England. Since the legal situation was yet unclear at the time, the in-vitro fertilization and the PID were made in Chicago. At that time the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the British regulatory agency for reproduction medicine, accepted embryo selection only to prevent birth of genetically ill children as for example the Down-syndrome. The authorities did have difficulties with the authorization to obtain stem cells for ill siblings. It is yet unclear, how they will decide regarding the request for "Designer-Babies".

Authority promotes location for biotechnology

In the meantime, the HEFA approved several requests to obtain stem cells for ill children after a thorough examination. The authority enjoys large public confidence – the reason why 70 percent of the British support research on embryonic stem cells. That also explains the high acceptance of "planned babies" in the UK. With a certain pride, the HEFA points out time and again, that they take a considerable role in Great Britain becoming the worldwide leading location for biotechnology. This explains the high acceptance of "wish" tasks as well, which are realized in several committees in Germany, and unites them under one roof in the center of London. They grant approval to clinics for in-vitro fertilization and to scientists to do research on embryos. And they control and supervise all researchers and physicians. For example, all results of in-vitro fertilization of each and every hospitals are published in the internet – quasi as a consumer protection service.

"Baby-Millionaires" invest in medical progress

One of the most renown reproduction physicians in Great Britain is Dr. Mohamed Taranissi, an Egyptian native. He is reckoned to be one of the leading "champions" when it comes to "Designer-Babies" and the first achievements here were actually his. In the meantime he numbers among the top baby millionaires on the island, as quoted in an article in the Independent . According to this article, British fertilization physicians make more money than their colleagues in the beauty business. The reason: The National Health Service (NHS) offers, according to the people relevant, an insufficient support in case of sterility. That only leaves a private treatment to the people wanting a child very much. And this is getting really expensive, which might even lead to people taking mortgages on their homes. The Independent holds not only the NHS, but also the baby millionaires responsible for this business with despair. But those defend themselves vehemently. They consider their fees adequate, no such thing a greed of gain, because all the profits are said to go straight back into the development of new treatment methods. As a matter of fact, Mohamed Tarassini, known to be a workaholic, lives rather modest and does not have any lavish hobbies. Nonetheless, the question arises, whether it is not true, that the "Designer-Baby" study was financed by the reproduction millionaires with the intent to influence for example the HEFA in their spirit.

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