September 25, 2008

Genetic Testing + Media = The Commodification of Beauty?

by Chef LC

Choices, choices, and more choices. Our society prides itself on having vast varieties for its consumers. We have the ability to choose what newspaper we read, what television channels we watch, and what political parties we support. We have a multitude of electronics to choose from in which, most of the time, we can pick out the color. From the intricate to simple things in life, we almost always have an option. And as new technologies arise, the choices expand to unprecedented heights. With Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) testing, doctors are beginning to talk about parents’ future capabilities of possibly choosing traits for their unborn child. But where do we draw the line with our array of selections? As our options begin to impinge on ethical values, what comes next? And are the media partly to blame for desiring to change the appearance of a human being?

Now, PGD testing is used to diagnose abnormal chromosomal disorders before the implantation of an embryo. But doctors believe that, with more research and testing, in a few years one may be able to control every feature of their unborn child by manipulating natural genetic traits. Parents will be able to choose traits like hair color, eye color, and height.

The Abraham Center of Life in San Antonio is an embryo bank which allows parents to choose the physical traits and even the personality of the donors. Parents who are unable to naturally have children believe the bank is a "dream come true." The center is unique in that it is a one-stop shopping trip; they offer fertilized eggs which worries some bioethicists. According to a report from ABC News, they let their clients "choose the education, race, appearance, and other genetic traits of individual sperm and egg donors. So far all the embryos made by the company are white, from young, healthy, college-educated donors."

PGD testing is rather expensive, thus mostly wealthy families would be receiving the procedures, in the beginning. With a wealthy class full of disease- free and ideally "beautiful" people, great prejudice may occur.

Changing the genetics of an unborn child may cause great problems in the psyche and behaviors of children. We would ultimately have a society full of more paranoid and self-conscious people. Even more so than we have now, due to the media's portrayal of unblemished people.

Not only would we be rather confused about our true identity, but our society would also lose its individuality. The media tell us what to think is attractive. Because the media are so ingrained in our culture, ultimately people would begin to look alike. For example, if today parents were to chose their children's characteristics most boys would probably be tall and athletic where as the girls would most likely have blonde hair and blue eyes. Some may think this would be an ideal situation; always looking at visually appealing traits. But who really wants a bunch of mini- Paris Hiltons or Brad Pitts running around? No matter how attractive you believe these two are, undoubtedly if everyone looked like them they would lose their appeal. It's the unique characteristics of each individual that makes human beings truly beautiful, not shallow media mocking appearances that many would strive to have.

The media constantly force certain types of body images into the minds of their audience. Women are supposed to be slender with curves in the “right places." Men should be tall, muscular, and handsome. With these images constantly shoved into our faces, a phony sense of perfect arises in our mentality. Many do not realize the great lengths make-up artists and computers go through to get the flawless looking product that we see. Several health-related issues come to the surface as people get overly caught up in trying to be flawless; anorexia and bulimia being two major issues. With PGD testing, our society may be more encased with false senses of beauty. Parents may become so preoccupied with having the perfect child that they will be utterly disappointed if, perhaps, something goes wrong. They may not be able to handle the idea of an ugly baby. This mentality is scary and may percolate if PGD testing is used to modify genetic traits.

Although PGD testing is useful in preventing abnormal genetic disorders there needs to be a line drawn between where it is helpful and hurtful. Using the procedures to change the natural traits and appearance of a person is wrong. People are not commodities and therefore should not be treated like products. Individuality should be treasured by every society.

(Graphic by sweets74 via Photobucket.)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool perspective to know, but have you realised that PSD is not only about choosing eye colour, choosing cosmetic traits? It is also about screening for life threatening diseases. If the risk of having these diseases can be removed, why not? There are many factors that result in characteristics traits, e.g. environmental factor, lifestyle choices, family medical history. Don't mean to offend just offering another perspective about PSD.
Cheers! xD