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On Genetics and Eugenics

“We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” --John Harris, a member of the United Kingdom’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University on the euthanizing of disabled infants

"With new technology, there are fears that we may be heading towards a future where only the poor are fat or bald, that we are heading towards creating a genetic underclass and genetic overclass." --David Magnus, Stanford University bioethicist 

"The people of our time sensitized by the terrible vicissitudes that have covered the 20th century and the very beginning of this one in mourning, are able to understand that man's dignity is not identified with his DNA genes and that it does not diminish with the eventual presence of physical differences or genetic defects."  -- Pope Benedict XVI 


"Until now, the stem-cell pioneers and gene-therapy proponents have been extraordinarily successful in ignoring all links between their research and the early 20th century pursuit of eugenics. If you want to split hairs, you could say that the quest then was to improve the human race, whereas now it is to improve each individual, one by one. But the implications are surely the same: the exclusion, demonising or destruction of those who do not, or cannot be made to, fit."       --Mary Dejevskycolumnist for The Independent

"These [pre-implantation genetic diagnosis] procedures are eugenic in nature; destruction masked as virtuous science. Certain questions should never be put before a civilised society, let alone turned into practice. We are looking at issues which go to the heart of our attitudes to disability, and the offensive message that is sent in this instance is that the disabled or sick are better off not being born."  -- Comment on Reproductive Ethics, www.corethics.org

"When I gave a speech at Emory Law School in Atlanta, students came up to me afterward and said that, with genetic testing readily available, women shouldn't be allowed to have children with disabilities, since it raises people's insurance rates."  --Lori B. Andrews, reproductive rights lawyer

"All people have the right to have been conceived, gestated, and born without genetic manipulation."  --Genetic Bill of Rights, Council for Responsible Genetics

"We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children."  --Robert Edwards, IVF pioneer and cloning advocate

"When cloning is safe, creation of children will not be a mystery but a choice, not only if and when, but what kind."  --Gregory Pence, Ph.D., bioethicist and cloning advocate

"A woman I know was told by her obstetrician that her fetus had Down syndrome.  The doctor ordered her to abort, she refused....  Another woman was similarly coerced.  Her doctor told her that her baby would be more like a fish than a human and would only be as smart as a baboon"  --Lori B. Andrews, reproductive rights lawyer

"The feeble-minded person is not desirable, he is a social encumbrance, often a burden to himself.  In short it were better for him and for society had he never been born.  Should we not then, in our attempt to improve the race, begin by preventing the birth of more feeble-minded?"  --H.H. Goddard, early 20th Century eugenics activist

"Margery Shaw, a doctor and lawyer, wrote in the Journal of Legal Medicine that women who carry a genetic defect such as Tay-Sachs and who go forward with a pregnancy of an affected fetus should be prosecuted as criminals."  --Lori B. Andrews, reproductive rights lawyer

"Eventually there will be discrimination against those who look 'different' because their genes were not altered.  The abscence of ethical restraints means crooked noses and teeth, acne or baldness will become the mark of Cain a century from now."  --Michael Langan, vice president, National Organization for Rare Disorders