People have been using in vitro fertilization since the late 1970's. But now, science has made it possible to test an embryo for certain genetic traits before it is implanted in the womb. This process, called preimplantation genetic testing, allows parents to choose to discard the embryos with the undesired traits and only implant the "good" ones. Although this makes it possible to prevent the heartbreak of losing a baby to a terminal illness, it also raises ethical questions about people creating perfect "designer babies."

Read the following articles about genetic testing. You should divide up the articles among your group members. Don't "lump" the articles together; for example if you are a group of two, one person should read the first, third and fifth, while the other should read the second, fourth, and sixth.

The first two are stories of parents using preimplantation genetic testing as a weapon against fatal genetic diseases:

 Screening Embryos for Disease

The Story of Adam Nash

The next two describe how genetic testing can be used to screen for other traits:

Parents Mad at Doctors over Deaf Baby

Boy or Girl?

And these discuss legislation governing the use of genetic testing:

Experts Support Mandatory Genetic Testing

China's Eugenics Law (In case you didn't know, eugenics is "The study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding." The word has negative connotations because it was practiced in the early 1900's in the form of sterilization of the mentally ill and prohibitions against interracial marriage, as well as by the Nazis in the form of exterminating people they saw as "undesirable.")


Each group member should now share the stories they read. Discuss your opinions on the decisions made by the people in the articles.

For what kinds of traits should embryos be tested?

When is it necessary, and when are parents going too far?

Now, pretend you are members of Congress, drafting a bill to govern the use of preimplantation genetic testing. State what tests, if any, will be mandatory, and which, if any, will be forbidden.

Remember the article about the couple who had all those tests run, then ended up having a child who was deaf. What tests should the parents have an explicit right to request? Should the doctors be allowed to refuse a test? Can they tell the parents the results of a test they didn't want?

You will turn in one copy of your finished bill with all group members names on it.

Try to come to a consensus as much as possible. However, if their is something you absolutely can't agree on you may turn in your own copy of the bill with your ammendment(s) added.