I posted before about my brother and his disappointment over finding out they are expecting a second girl. Now, I don't think my brother would in any way go to these lengths, but I recently read about a trial use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for gender selection. Julie has blogged about this.
This reminded me of an article I read a while ago: you can read the article here and the most interesting table is here. They asked a group of hospital ethicists in what conditions did they consider prenatal genetic diagnosis - amniocentesis - acceptable. Interestingly, when the risks of amnio were presented accurately, fewer ethicists thought it was acceptable. And when the conditions, such as Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and type 2 diabetes, were actually described rather than named, fewer people thought screening was ethical.
These are professionals who know what they are doing, we would hope, and who have heard of these diseases, know something about the outcomes and the current research programmes, but I doubt that mothers being offered amnio are even given the limited descriptions of conditions that the ethics panel were given. Most people know little or nothing about Down Syndrome or cystic fibrosis.
Personally, I would be too afraid of the risk of another miscarriage to undergo amnio, should I ever get to that stage, but if I was at risk of carrying a fatal genetic disease (by which I mean one that precluded even childhood), I might think differently. I might think even more differently about the kind of genetic diagnosis Julie is talking about, which however involves IVF even if you are otherwise fertile.
But it shocked me that some of the hospital ethicists surveyed thought that prenatal testing for an embarassing condition (red hair and freckles) was justifiable.
I don't think even Mr Insensitive, my brother, would be interested in selecting children who don't have his (and my) goofy front teeth...