Eugenics in the Springtime
by C. Ben Mitchell
"Designer babies" will be all the rage this Spring. So, apparently, will be historical amnesia. Historical amnesia is a tragic genetic illness. Sadly, it is affecting increasing numbers of people in our culture. As Santayana has famously said, "those who forget the past are destined to repeat it."
Several "designer baby" stories during the last two weeks reinforce Santayana's warning. On 16 February, Britain's first designer baby was born. The British couple hoped to have a child who could supply bone marrow stem cells for the child's ailing sibling. The couple was referred to the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago where they conceived through in vitro fertilization. On 22 February, another British couple was given permission by the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority to use IVF to create a child who would be a perfect genetic match for his brother who suffers from a rare blood disorder. On 27 February, we were told that one of Scotland's largest hospitals, the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, had applied for a license to create designer babies for couples with genetic disorders like thalassemia and Fanconi's anemia.
That Britain and the United States are swapping these developments is poetic in a rather dark way. After all, it was the Victorian Francis Galton of England who pioneered the old