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Designer Babies- To Create Or Not To Create!

Year 2002, Michelle and Jayson Whitaker, parents of Charlie Whitaker, afflicted with a rare blood condition called Diamond Blackfan Anemia appeal to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to consider approval of the ‘designer baby’ concept to save their sick child. Diamond Blackfan anemia is a rare, potentially fatal // genetic disorder that requires regular, painful treatment. Stem cell transplantation from a sibling with a perfect tissue match is the only viable treatment option.

Permission was initially denied, as there was no proper evidence to support the use of the technique at that time. The parents would not give up. Thanks to their perseverant efforts. It was decided to allow for genetic screening of the embryo to prevent the birth of another child with the same genetic disorder in the family. This however meant that they were denied from testing the embryo with the hope of saving their first child or towards finding a perfect genetically matched donor.

This rule was later relaxed that allowed the Whitakers to travel to the US for treatment. June 2003, Jamie Whittaker was born. Jamie was selected genetically while he was still an embryo. Two or three of his cells were tested when he was just 3 days old, before his embryo was transplanted to Michelle.

At the time of delivery, umbilical cord blood, a rich source of stem cells was harvested and stored for potential life-saving stem cell transplantation. Two-year-old Jamie, called saviour sibling, is now a genetic match to his elder brother. Charlie however is now in remission and so far, treatment has not been necessary.

The birth of Jamie, no doubt brought immense joy and happiness to the deserving couple, but along with it raised a cloud of controversy regarding the birth of ‘designer babies’, born to aid a sick brother or sister.

The second case, where Raj and Shahana Hashmi were granted permission to use the tissue typing proced
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