There are many things to consider when you're planning to have a child. For Katie Dowdy, she couldn't overlook her family's history of cancer — specifically, a genetic mutation of the BRCA gene. When it came time to conceive, Dowdy and her husband decided to use the controversial method of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.
PGD is similar to IVF treatments, except with a focus on identifying embryos that are free from genetic mutation. In Dowdy's case, this meant avoiding the transmission of the mutated BRCA genes to her children. After two weeks of hormonal stimulation, her eggs were retrieved and fertilized. After sitting to multiply for five days, doctors analyzed the embryos for mutations, marking those without any genetic defects for transfer into Dowdy's uterus. Even after implanting the cleared embryos, some doctors recommend an amniocentesis to confirm there aren't any missed mutations. Both of Dowdy's daughters were conceived this way.
Opponents of PGD argue that the process essentially gives people the option to have "designer babies" — ones free of genetic mutations, and in some cases even allowing parents to select the sex of the baby. And, questions surrounding the disposal of genetically mutated embryos raises questions about the ethics of the practice.
Dowdy and her husband, like many parents today, face the simple question: If you could identify and eradicate genetic defects in your children, would you? In their case, the overwhelming family history of cancer raised flags they couldn't ignore. (Wall Street Journal)