In the October edition of The Public Square, Fr. Neuhaus correctly points out that eugenics is back and in a huge way. As a Christian and an oncologist, I am passionate about "life and death" issues, as well as those of genetics, mutations, and medical ethics. Previous attempts to correct the human race have been large scale, crude, and public--for example, mass sterilizations, deliberate euthanasia of "defectives," and promotion of propagation among the professional classes. The new eugenics is very quietly and effectively taking place behind closed doors. Public discourse over the selective abortion of early zygotes, also known as human beings, was and is minimal.
Preimplantation screening for "disease" is considered a medical breakthrough. When blind confidence in scientific progress is coupled with a family's fight to privacy, you have a prescription for disaster. Or should I say utopia, now that we should be able to create children without flaws. What could be better than that? Even gender selection, preimplantation-style, is on the table.
The question not asked by Neuhaus is this: What are the six thousand "diseases" that we can now avoid for the good of humanity? The list may be very surprising and is developing right now. Down syndrome is mentioned as one example, but as a physician I really want to know what the other 5,999 are.
The supposition is that a child with an avoidable condition is best not born. Take, for example, cystic fibrosis (CF). This inherited disease of the lungs leads to multiple infections, hospitalizations, and, often, death in middle adulthood. But because people with CF typically live into adulthood, they have the opportunity to experience God's green earth, go to school, stand up at their best friend's wedding, and struggle through life for decades. What if, through genetic selection, we were to deprive the world of a great CF researcher who would have been born to...