The asthma has not been good this week. I have been fearful of going out without an inhaler with me. I suppose I should be grateful, in a hundred years time I would probably have not lived at all.
I attended a lecture this day last week on therapeutic cloning. It all seemed very benign: research that helped infertile couples, research that might change the lives of people with terrible debilitating illnesses.
It was the possibilities that arose that became frightening. Genetic engineering would allow certain conditions to be screened out. There was emphasis on the fact that illnesses like cystic fibrosis, which do not allow people to live a full life, might become a thing of the past.
It was the boundaries that were a concern. If some illnesses might be screened out, what other genetic “defects” might be corrected? Will people with Downs Syndrome not even get a chance to be born? Will people with hereditary asthma be considered to be likely to endure unnecessary suffering and be an unnecessary burden on the health system? Will people with red hair be considered “undesirable”?
The only criterion for establishing a perimeter fence seemed to be “the avoidance of suffering”. the term seemed amenable to just about any interpretation one might place upon it. If a child of a particular sex was likely to cause emotional ‘suffering’, if particular features were likely to cause upset to a parent, then there seemed no reason why appropriate modifications might not be made.
In a world where what can be done, will be done, there will be little place for people with illness or disability or difference. From being made in the image of God, we may be remade in the image of genetic scientists. The chance of life, even if the odd puff of the inhaler is needed, might become a rare thing for people like me.