Thursday, February 12, 2009

Los Angeles Fertility Clinic: Ethical Issues Abound In Selecting Cosmetic Traits

On February 12, 2009, the WSJ published an article about a Los Angeles, Mexico City and New York based fertility clinic "Fertility Institutes" entitled "A Baby, Please. Blonde, Freckles -- Hold The Colic." This is a controversial area known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. PGD has grown quickly and there are almost no state or federal regulations governing it. The idea of pre-selecting cosmetic traits in a baby raises all kinds of ethical and medical issues. One can envision the legal medical issues that can arise.

According to the WSJ, this clinic says it will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo a form of fertility treatment. The clinic, Fertility Institutes, says it has received "half a dozen" requests for the service, which is based on a procedure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. This fertility clinic has received a lot of press including 60 Minutes, CNN and other media probably because this all seems like science fiction come true.

While PGD has been used for averting life-threatening diseases in children, the science behind it has progressed to the point that it could potentially be used to create cosmetically enhanced babies or at least to select gender. For more:

The New York Times ran an article on the same day on a related topic: "Birth of Octuplets Puts Focus on Fertility Clinics." Fertility clinics have come under scrutiny since a California woman Nadye Suleman who already had 6 children conceived through in vitro procedures, gave birth to octuplets near here last month.

Commentary: We expect that the Medical Board, the legislature and other governmental agencies will respond to all the publicity generated by the controversy. This response may not be fair or even handed. There is the old saying that "bad cases make bad law," and the Suleman case may be one of them. The media and public commentary demanding that the doctor lose his license --even where the facts about him and the case are not known -- is what happens when publicity gets out of control.

Any questions or comments should be directed to:  Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California. They focus their practice on the representation of individuals, businesses, and licensed professional and providers, including health care professionals.


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