5 out of 5 stars *****
The fascinating and scholarly book by Professor Ronald M. Green,babies by design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice is 10 years old but informs those of us not familiar with the fields of genetics and reproduction about the capabilities in altering human conditions, such as disease, before birth. Society is mainly aware of invitro fertilization, test tube babies, for couples unable to conceive naturally. Green describes many procedures that go beyond test tubes and culture dishes since the completion of the Human Genome Project; like, gene therapy, germline gene transfer, or CRE recombinase treatments. Elaborations of these and other treatments are in the text and glossary but the aim of this book is to enlighten people as to the responsibility that accompanies this human embryonic research and activity.
Ethics and morals pose difficult questions when science meets humanity with its religions, laws, and values. Athletes using steroids and human growth hormone (HCG) to gain that physical, mental edge over their competition makes headlines at every exposure. Committees, leagues, and regulating boards punish the users making a public spectacle out of them. Judges must now regulate substances that benefit an athlete if it goes beyond regular vitamins and minerals during extensive training. Humans continue to push the envelope to get that edge regardless of consequences, and there are some drastic consequences to this drive. The ethical consideration of these choices that athletes make is that they are performance enhancing and not therapeutic necessities. "The non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, or genetic elements, or the modulation of gene expression to improve athletic performance" is known as "Gene doping" (p. 261)
Green also refers to the way Hollywood and Science Fiction treat this subject. Books and movies, such as Brave New World and Gattaca reveal the negative side of gene manipulation by creating a class of people seemingly superior coupled with human nature's greed for control and power. It is an entertaining way to display the issues surrounding man's increasing knowledge and abilities to alter humankind.
On the religious front, many cry out that this field of science should be banned because it is man playing God by trying to change what God has made, and what God has made is perfect. Green considers all of these issues and compassionately understands why so many feel the way they do. His objective is to teach what is possible as well as why any endeavor involving gene therapy should be undertaken or not. Identifying what a better informed society is willing to accept is the dynamic facing the field of ethics in reprogenetics, "The merging of reproductive and genetic technologies." (p. 266) In closing, Green refers to the ethicist-theologian, Ronald Cole-Turner, when he points out that the end does not justify the means; the means is as important as the end, itself.