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How Much Would You Pay to Guarantee a Healthy Baby?

Photograph by Twenty20

Pregnant moms all want the same thing: a happy, healthy and beautiful child. They would also like them to be loving, smart, funny, curious, independent (to a certain extent), obedient, compassionate, polite, charismatic, trustworthy, generous, honest and exemplary in every way.

In other words, they want perfection.

If you want things done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself, but manipulating DNA is a chemistry that scientists have shied away from in the past. First off, it's dangerous. Imagine editing a human embryo to erase a potentially hazardous mutation and later learning that you gave birth to a lizard. How would you explain that to your family?

Second, chaotic engineering of this caliber will ultimately bring out the worst in people—and by people, I mean those who can afford to pay for embellished characteristics. And what about those children whose parents cannot afford such lavish renovations? Remember how mean kids were in elementary school? Multiply that by 12.

Still, it's human nature to be curious, and science is science.

In February, a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee endorsed modifying embryos, but only to correct mutations that cause “a serious disease or condition” and when no “reasonable alternatives” exist. It didn't take long for researchers to climb aboard and engineer a few dozen fetuses.

For the first time in history, researchers have successfully edited the human embryo to repair a common heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life.

“We’ve always said in the past gene editing shouldn’t be done, mostly because it couldn’t be done safely,” said Richard Hynes, a cancer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-led the committee. “That’s still true, but now it looks like it’s going to be done safely soon,” he said, adding that the research is “a big breakthrough.”

The notion of giving birth to a 100 percent—guaranteed—able bodied, bright-eyed child is unfathomable to many parents. And though scientists still need to tweak clinical trials and jump through some legal loopholes, they do believe that couples who are unable to give birth to healthy children will one day be able to do so—for a price.

For now, the idea of a pre-meditated gene pool is still up for debate, but if the FDA gives approval for this procedure, we could potentially wipe out diseases such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, certain types of cancer or, with any luck, erase the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

With so many life-threatening illnesses in the world today, the concept of elimination is tempting, but what about supply and demand, and people with too much money?

The rich and famous have a long history of getting what they want, and corporate greed is part of American culture. It's only a matter of time before mutated embryos are household items and, as intriguing as designer babies may seem, no one wants one from Amazon Prime—except maybe Beyoncé.

Pregnancy is a profound and frightening experience that expectant parents do not take lightly. Though giving birth to a perfect child is dream-worthy, designing your own will be an extravagant option that most cannot afford. Besides, creating babies is a lot more fun without test tubes and doctors. Save those things for when you really need them.

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