British mother eliminates embryonic children to gain healthier baby


WASHINGTON — A London woman is carrying Great Britain's first baby guaranteed to be free of inherited breast cancer, but she had to eliminate several of her other embryonic offspring to do so.

Doctors used pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a controversial screening method, to determine which of the 11 embryos created by means of in vitro fertilization (IVF) had the gene that would have resulted in a female child having a 50 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer, according to The Times of London.

Six of the embryos tested positive for the gene and were rejected. Two embryos without the gene were implanted, producing a pregnancy of 14 weeks as of June 29. Two others were frozen, The Times reported.

The 27-year-old mother, who desires to remain anonymous, and her 28-year-old husband are fertile, but they chose IVF and PGD because of the prevalence of breast cancer on one side of the family. The husband had tested positive for the gene, known as BRCA-1.

"For the past three generations, every single woman in my husband's family has had breast cancer, as early as 27 and 29," the mother said, according to The Times. "We felt that, if there was a possibility of eliminating this for our children, then that was a route we had to go down."

R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said July 1 on his weblog the development again shows some lives are considered by some people to be unworthy of life.

"The laboratory is now a dangerous place for human embryos," Mohler wrote. "They can be destroyed for stem cell research, frozen pending sale and rejected after genetic testing. This points to a very sad reality — there is now a search and destroy mission targeting human embryos considered unworthy and unwanted.

"Where does this stop? The designation of any trait — even the negative designation — creates a designer baby. Someone has decided that some trait is unacceptable.

"In this case it was a gene linked to cancer," he wrote. "What next? We already know that the vast majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are now aborted. How long before there is a preimplantation screen for that syndrome? Couples are now screening embryos for gender. How long before athletic ability or earning potential is linked to a gene? Blond hair? Blue eyes?"