A gut-wrenching story in the New York Times this week details the difficult decisions of Amanda Baxley who, immediately after discovering she was a carrier of a gene which leads to Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease, vowed to never have children. Buxley learned that due to the genetic disease, one day between the ages of 30 and 50, without warning, she will begin to “stumble like a drunk,” dementia will set in soon afterward, and within five years she will be dead. Her father, aunt, and several cousins all died from the disease. The day after she found out, her boyfriend proposed.
The story has a bittersweet ending. By using in-vitro fertilization, Baxley and her husband were able to create several embryos, test them in a petri dish, and select ones that were not carriers of the deadly gene. Today they have three healthy children who are not carriers of the disease.
But as genetic testing of embryos becomes increasingly refined, more and more parents are opting for the procedure for a wide range of reasons, opening new ethical questions about “playing God” and deciding which embryos deserve to live. Read the rest of this entry →