Pandagon, the website that spawned everyone’s favorite hate-filled feminazi troll Amanda Marcotte, has approvingly highlighted an NBC article that featured a family that seeks to kill off all potential offspring, simply because the baby might have a genetic disease that will eventually be fatal. Sound crazy? Well, meet the Linder family.
It’s an agonizing form of prevention the Linder sisters have turned to four times combined. They’ve had three abortions, and in 2009, Hilary and her husband paid $20,000 out of pocket for a round of in vitro fertilization aimed at creating an unaffected embryo. The gene has killed five people in the Linder family, and it now threatens the sisters themselves. But if they have their way, it will die out in their generation.
… The Linders’ story is personal, of course, but it’s also a public milestone. It’s the first known example of genetic medicine not only identifying a deadly new mutation—akin to the next Huntington’s or Cystic Fibrosis—but of a family banding together to stop a disease before it cuts a path through society itself. It illustrates the promise of genomic medicine, which may one day stop disease as we know it, but also the soul-troubling questions that arise when people have a hand in their own evolution.
America is experiencing a boom in biological fortune-telling. Doctors can now scan the genes of a fetus using only a drop of the mother’s blood, testing for hundreds of known mutations, including Down syndrome. Soon they’ll be able to detect a growing list of rare mutations—almost none of them treatable—and predict an embryo’s risk of more common ailments like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. By that point, millions of pregnant women will be offered a God-like view of their child-to-be and a decision much like the Linders, a decision as miraculous as it is unnerving: When is a life worth living?
… The Linders, for their part, are sympathetic to some of the criticism. “I don’t think it’s right to select for handsome, blue-eyed babies,” says Hilary. “But if you can save a life? How wonderful that is.” Joselin wholeheartedly agrees.
It’s curious that Hilary Linder sees this as “saving” a life when in reality, what they’re doing is taking lives. Robbing a child of their chance to live because there is a chance — not even a certainty, but a chance — that they might have a genetic disease is awful. It’s certainly not something to be celebrated.
As one of the sisters’ doctors pointed out, we’re all full of bad genes. Why stop at horrific diseases? What if we could “cure” acne? Freckles? Red hair? Low IQ? Where do we draw the line, and what makes us think that we have the right to play God?
NBC writer Tony Dokoupil enthusiastically talks about the possibility of stamping out Cystic Fibrosis and Huntington’s Disease through this same method: aborting a baby that has the disease, thus robbing the child of life merely because they’re considered “defective”, and asks when a life worth living. Evidently, in today’s world, a disease makes someone unworthy of life. By that logic, why should we even bother treating someone who develops cancer? If disease makes us unworthy of life, then screw chemotherapy and radiation. We should just shoot them. If that idea sounds horrific, then why is it not equally horrifying to kill an unborn child on the off chance that it might have a disease?
The disease that runs in the Linder family is awful. The sisters’ father died a slow, painful death. The slow, painful death is not a guarantee, though. Their grandmother is 90 years old and still alive. Their sisters have lived into middle age without having the devastating effects that their father endured. The disease they claim to be so scared of spreading to their children is not a sure thing, and it also isn’t definitely fatal. Even if it was though, how is it acceptable to take someone’s life because you feel that their quality of life won’t be worth living? It’s the same argument that allows people to abort babies with Down syndrome. The idea of quality of life is entirely subjective, and what gives anyone the right to decide whose life is worth living, and whose isn’t?
What the Linder sisters are doing is being touted as an amazing act of self-sacrifice. But it isn’t a self-sacrifice when it’s someone else’s life that’s being taken.