Bioethicists spark debate on “designer babies”

Summary

Bioethicists in Ghent and Leuven are creating a stir with their article on so-called designer babies

Patent for technique to determine a baby's characteristics sparks debate

Bioethicists of Ghent University and the University of Leuven have created a stir in the US media with their article in the journal Genetics in Medicine on the patent for a method to develop so-called designer babies. The company 23andMe last week received the patent for their technique to determine, for example, the eye colour and personality characteristics of a child.

Although the firm cannot guarantee future parents that their child has these desired characteristics, they can select the egg cell and sperm that increase the probability. Professor Sigrid Sterckx of the Bioethics Institute Ghent says that 23andMe and the US Patent and Trademark Office have not sufficiently considered the ethical implications and emphasises that public confidence is crucial to ensure the success of human genetics research.