Is this playing God?

Genetic selection, is this playing God? I am in two minds with this one, particularly since I fought and won my battle against breast cancer. I raise awareness and beg people to donate money towards research in finding a cure. But this is not the cure I had in mind.

I get alerts through my email provider. These come in daily and when I see something that really catches my eye, I post it. However, there are times when I find something in those alerts that causes my breath to catch in my throat. This, I’m afraid, is one of those.

The following article was included in the Daily Mirror online version. I am also assuming that it appeared in the actual newsprint version as well, especially as this, would be considered by some a breakthrough.

I ask you, my readers, to decide for yourself if this defines God playing. I have not made up my mind yet, however, while this is not the same as cloning, it is medical experimentation at the expense of a human being. It will be said by the courts that the mass of cells that will develop into an embryo and then a little person were not yet “classed” as such and there is truth in that, BUT … ah well … I will leave you to ponder this and decide.

Baby born free of breast cancer gene

A baby with a family history of breast cancer has been born without the faulty gene that sparks the disease – thanks to genetic selection.

The tot grew from an embryo specially picked out from several others screened by doctors hunting for the rogue cells.

She is the first baby in the UK to be born free of the BRCA 1 gene under the selection process. It means she will never be struck down by the killer disease which hits around 44,000 people a year.

Women in three generations of the dad’s side of the baby’s family were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s.

Without screening, the youngster – born at University College Hospital, London – would have had an 80 per cent chance of being another victim and a 50 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Paul Serhal, medical director of the Assisted Conception Unit at UCH, said: “This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life.

“The parents have been spared the risk of inflicting the disease on their daughter.

“The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations.” In June, the 27-year-old mum – who does not want to be named – told how she decided to have the screening after seeing her husband’s relatives suffer.

She said: “We felt if there was a possibility of eliminating this for our children, then that was a route we had to go down.”

Doctors at the private conception clinic tested 11 embryos by removing just one cell from each when they were three days old.

Six were found to carry the defective gene. Two were free of it and implanted, resulting in a single pregnancy.

The technique – known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis – has already been used in the UK to choose babies free of inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis.

Dr Sarah Cant, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “The decision to screen embryos to see if they have a faulty gene is a complex and very personal issue.

“Women with a family history of breast cancer tell us that what might be right for one person may not be right for another.”

But Josephine Quintavallez, of campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, added: “This is nothing personal towards the girl, but I think we have gone too far.”

By Mike Swain

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