Access to the Genome: The Challenge to Equality

By Maxwell J. Mehlman; Jeffrey R. Botkin | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

Kate and Dan Britton planned and saved to be parents. Careful planning was necessary since it is an expensive enterprise and somewhat time-consuming. Both Kate and Dan are thirty-four years of age, which is the fashionable age to procreate within their social class. Having an unplanned baby would be highly embarrassing—social suicide really. One has to show personal and social responsibility in such important matters and lapses are not easily forgiven. The lower social classes continue to mate in the traditional way and have random children in random fashion with no efforts at quality control. Of course, contraceptives are available to all, but the less educated masses appear unable or unwilling to use them consistently. Accepting a child that is simply a chance combination of parental genes is unacceptable—like choosing a car by tossing a dart at the classified ads.

The process that Kate and Dan used is fairly routine. Kate had undergone "ovary hyperstimulation" over a three-month period through use of a variety of hormones. To spare repeated injections, a small capsule was implanted in Kate's leg that released hormones into her system on a programmed cycle. The hormones "pumped up" her ovaries to yield several eggs per month for the three-month time period. Some women would choose four- and five-month hyperstimulations, but this would cost more than the Brittons wanted to spend at this point. Besides, the three-month routine could be repeated in several months if no acceptable embryos were created. The eggs were retrieved through a slender needle inserted into Kate's abdomen with only minor discomfort.

Once retrieved, the eggs were automatically scanned for obvious defects and then fertilized with Dan's sperm. The sperm, too, had been scanned for damaged cells and sorted to enrich the quality. A new sorter had been introduced recently that could detect a dye for the Y chromosome. The harmless dye enabled the selection of sperm to create either all boys or all girls from the harvested eggs. The Brittons knew they wanted a girl and were delighted that they would not have to waste embryos by discarding the males. All the fertilized eggs would produce females. This immediately doubled their choice of

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Access to the Genome: The Challenge to Equality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Access to the Genome - The Challenge to Equality *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Human Genome Project 7
  • 3: The Practical Applications of Human Genetic Technology 20
  • 4: The Impact of Genetic Technologies 39
  • 5: Access to Genetic Technologies 55
  • 6: Genetic Technologies and the Challenge to Equality 88
  • 7: Responding to the Challenge 110
  • 8: Conclusion 129
  • References 131
  • Index 145
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