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August 24, 2006

Comments

Considering that neither side of the debate really likes this technique, I don't see it catching on.

I don't see a direct problem with the technique; it (superficially) solves the problem, although at some risk. The question is whether the risk can be worth it to the patient being operated on.

The answer is clearly NO, and will not be otherwise for a while yet. The reward would outweigh the risk if there was a procedure that could benefit the embryo that required a cell of the embryo to be extracted. One example would be testing for a curable genetic defect; another would be banking the ESCs for later use (assuming, of course, a breakthrough that actually made them useful).

Unfortunately, the only reason we have NOW to take a cell from a zygote is to see whether the zygote is Lebensunwertes Leben (a life unworthy of living). If the cell tests positive for a genetic disorder, we kill the zygote. (I've seen _many_ excited news reports about a "new technique" of one kind or another to "prevent genetic diseases". When read closely, they're all the same thing so far.)

In principle, this need not always be the case; it's conceivable that we'll be able to perform genetic surgery using tailored retroviruses, for example; such surgery could only possibly work at a VERY early stage of development.

At any rate, we're definitely not in a position to be doing this yet; and in my opinion we're a long way from it. Some other solution will have to be found.

By the way, I don't find the "they can't consent" argument to be strong at all. Neither can a newborn -- the parents can consent for him or her. The rest of your argument is better, particularly the part about the procedure bearing NO benefit for the zygote.

-Billy

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