Washington D.C., Nov 22, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- A company claims to have developed a new test that will permit parents to test and screen embryos for intelligence during the process of in vitro fertilization. The development could lead to increased commodification of human life, a Catholic University of America professor has said.
The firm, Genomic Prediction, claims to have developed a means of screening embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) for a multitude of traits, including inheritable diseases and propensity for intelligence.
Genomic Prediction says its tests will be able to scan embryos for a multitude of conditions. The tests will identify what the firm describes as “genetic outliers,” and parents will be given the choice of selecting between embryos based upon predictions that some embryos will have a lower-than-average IQ.
While the test has yet to be used, New Scientist reports that the firm has begun discussions with IVF clinics in the United States to make it available to prospective parents.
Joseph Capizzi, professor of moral theology at The Catholic University of America told CNA that the trend toward “designer babies” adding that a fear of “imperfect” offspring is leading to children being treated as goods, rather than people.
The test would be able to screen embryos for a potential “mental disability,” Genomic Prediction says.
While screening embryos for a certain sex, blood type or inheritable disease has existed for some time, screening for potential “mental disability” is new. Embryonic genetic testing is already often used as a pretense for the abortion of some embryos, or the destruction of some embryos created during the in vitro fertilization process.
“The problems with this are obvious,” said Capizzi. These kinds of tests “treat human beings as things to be produced, sold or bought.”
Although those behind test say they do not specifically seek to identify embryos that contain genes linked to higher intelligence, Genomic Prediction co-founder Stephen Hsu said that he believes there will be a demand for this service in the future.
“I think people are going to demand that. If we don’t do it, some other company will,” said Hsu in New Scientist.
Currently, something called a “polygenic risk score” can be calculated for adults. This score is calculated after an examination of a person’s genes to identify increased risks for heart disease, dementia, or breast cancer. Until now, this has not been available for embryos.
Capizzi warned that a mentality of parents wanting a supposedly genetically perfect “designer” child will have dire effects on how people view others.
“The logic of this leads to parents demanding refunds or exchanges of their children when they don’t turn out as promised,” Capizzi said.
“Not only, in other words, will the commodification of human beings in this way lead to throwing away unwanted embryos, it will lead to the abandonment of unwanted young people.”