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Ethics of Designer Babies

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology before and after the turn of the twenty-first century makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Reproduction

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Bonbrest v. Kotz [Brief] (1946)

This influential opinion was copied throughout the United States allowing civil actions and wrongful death claims on behalf of children who suffered injuries while a viable fetus. The case essentially overruled the opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton (1884). However, the ability to sue was usually limited in two ways: the fetus had to be viable, and a child had to be born alive to have a claim. These two restrictions have recently been removed in many jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Weber v. Stony Brook Hospital (1983)

The New York Court of Appeals' 1983 case Weber v. Stony Brook set an important precedent upholding the right of parents to make medical decisions for newborns born with severe congenital defects. A pro-life New York attorney, Lawrence Washburn, attempted to legally intervene in the case of Baby Jane Doe, an infant born with disorders. When the infant's parents chose palliative care over intensive corrective surgery, Washburn made repeated attempts to have the New York courts force through the surgery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Ricardo Hector Asch (1947- )

Ricardo Hector Asch was born 26 October 1947 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a lawyer and French professor, Bertha, and a doctor and professor of surgery, Miguel. Asch's middle-class family lived among the largest Jewish community in Latin America, where a majority of males were professionals. After his graduation from National College No. 3 Mariano Moreno in Buenos Aires, Asch worked as a teaching assistant in human reproduction and embryology at the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine where he received his medical degree in 1971.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, People

"The Multi-Dimensional Human Embryo"

The Multi-Dimensional Human Embryo website (http://embryo.soad.umich.edu/) is a publicly accessible online database of the first three-dimensional images and animations of human embryos during different stages of development. Both the images and animations were created using magnetic resonance microscopy and compiled for easy access.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Organizations

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)

In the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the US Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violated privately held, for-profit corporations’ right to religious freedom. The contraception mandate, issued in 2012 by the US Department of Health and Human Services, required that employer-provided health insurance plans offer their beneficiaries certain contraceptive methods free of charge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

“Consensus on the Current Management of Endometriosis” (2013), by Neil P. Johnson and Lone Hummelshoj

“Consensus on the Current Management of Endometriosis”, henceforth “Consensus”, was written by the World Endometriosis Society, or WES, president Neil P. Johnson and chief executive Lone Hummelshoj and published in 2013 in Human Reproduction. “Consensus” makes recommendations about managing endometriosis for women and healthcare professionals. Endometriosis is a condition where endometrium, the tissue that usually lines the uterus, grows outside of the uterus and is characterized by painful periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, and infertility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Julia Clifford Lathrop (1858–1932)

Julia Clifford Lathrop was an activist and social reformer in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries and the first chief of the United States Children’s Bureau. In that capacity, she conducted demographic studies to identify links between socioeconomic factors and infant mortality rates. Lathrop mobilized the effort to increase birth registration and designed programs and publications to promote infant and maternal health throughout the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Outreach

Park v. Chessin (1977)

The New York Appellate Court ruled on 11 December 1977 in favor of Steven and Hetty Park and against Herbert Chessin for the wrongful life of the Parks' child. In a wrongful life case, a disabled or sometimes deceased child brings suit against a physician for failing to inform its parents of possible genetic defects, thereby causing harm to the child when born. Park v. Chessin was the first case to rule that medical personnel could be legally responsible for wrongful life. Further cases such as the 1979 case Berman v. Allan and the 1982 case Turpin v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Gonzales v. Carhart (2007)

In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the US Supreme Court held in a five-to-four decision that the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the US Congress was constitutional. Although the Court previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) that a Nebraska law that prohibited partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional, Gonzales reversed this decision. Gonzales created the precedent that anyone who delivers and kills a living fetus could be subject to legal consequences, unless he or she performed the procedure to save the life of the mother.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA

The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

"Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2005), by Leon Kass and the President’s Council on Bioethics

Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens?

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

Roe v. Wade (1973)

In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control (1963), by John Rock

In 1963, Roman Catholic fertility doctor John Rock published The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control, a first-person treatise on the use of scientifically approved forms of birth control for Catholic couples. The first contraceptive pill, called Enovid, had been on the market since June 1960, and Rock was one of the leading researchers in its development. In The Time Has Come, Rock explicitly describes the arguments for and against the use of birth control from both a religious and a scientific perspective.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Religion, Reproduction

Prenatal Care (1913), by Mary Mills West

Prenatal Care is an educational booklet written by Mary Mills West of the US Children’s Bureau and published by the US Government Printing Office in 1913. The Bureau distributed West’s booklets in response to their field studies on infant mortality, which found that lack of access to accurate health and hygiene information put women and infants at greater than normal risk of death or disease. In Prenatal Care, West offers advice on nutrition, exercise, and personal hygiene during pregnancy and describes the processes of labor and birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

“Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs” (2008), by Government Accountability Office

On 23 April 2008, the US Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released a report titled, “Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs,” hereafter “Abstinence Education,” in which it investigated the scientific accuracy and effectiveness of abstinence-only education programs sanctioned by individual states and the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. GAO is a government agency whose role is to examine the use of public funds, evaluate federal programs and activities, and provide nonpartisan support to the US Congress.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Publications

The Case of Lydia Fairchild and Her Chimerism (2002)

In 2002, after applying for government assistance in the state of Washington, Lydia Fairchild was told that her two children were not a genetic match with her and that therefore, biologically, she could not be their mother. Researchers later determined that the genetic mismatch was due to chimerism, a condition in which two genetically distinct cell lines are present in one body. The state accused Fairchild of fraud and filed a lawsuit against her.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, People

Frazer v. Schlegel (2007)

On 20 August 2007, in Frazer v. Schlegel, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that researchers Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou owned the rights to the vaccine patent for Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, instead of a research team led by Richard Schlegel. Frazer v. Schlegel reversed the decision that the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences had previously made, awarding the patent to Schlegel on the basis that Frazer’s patent application contained inaccurate science.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Technologies

A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui

In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics

Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004)

Edward B. Lewis studied embryonic development in Drosophila, including the discovery of the cis-trans test for recessive genes, and the identification of the bithorax complex and its role in development in Drosophila. He shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus for work on genetic control of early embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Berthold Karl Hölldobler (1936– )

Berthold Karl Hölldobler studied social insects like ants in Europe and the US during the twentieth and early twenty-first century. He focused on the social behavior of ants, the evolutionary origins of social insects, and the way ants use chemicals to communicate with each other. Hölldobler’s research reached popular audiences through his co-authored Pulitzer Prize winning book The Ants and through an award winning nature documentary called Ameisen: Die heimliche Weltmacht (Ants: Nature’s Secret Power).

Format: Articles