In the not too distant future, a society exists in which advanced genetic engineering determines the social status of a human being.
Or so that’s what director Andrew Niccol portrayed 15 years ago in his blockbuster movie Gattaca. A play on the letters that represent the four DNA bases (G A T C), Gattaca depicts a world obsessed with genetic perfection. The key theme of this scientifically driven film is the dominance of nature over nurture. One of the very first scenes displays the birth of Vincent, a boy that was naturally conceived, not genetically engineered like the rest of his generation. Vincent’s chances of future health problems were determined at birth. Things such as percentage chance of obesity, manic depression, attention deficit disorder, heart disorder and life expectancy were defined by a simple prick of his foot.
It did not matter how much I lied on my resume. My real resume was in my cells.
In my previous post on super-fertility, I mentioned a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. This is the tool applied to embryos in Gattaca to create the most genetically dominant child. Although an important advancement in science, this near future brings up major ethical concerns.
Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply, the best, of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.
Currently only genetic defects such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed with PGD. An article posted in natural news last year suggests that with healthcare costs on the rise, governments may approve more conditions to be genetically tested for at the embryonic stage. By bringing in these new policies, this genetic testing could lead to greater abortion rates, and hence decrease healthcare costs associated with genetic diseases. Do we want a future like this? Where a naturally conceived child is prevented from fulfilling their dreams due to statistically determined health problems? In all our efforts to rid our societies of discrimination, there is a chance discrimination of future generations could be put down to a science.
I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.
This film is extremely moving as it brings to light the ethical concerns associated with human rights and how these rights can be abused by science. By referring back to this film created before many scientific technologies existed, the goals of scientists can be put into perspective. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Gattaca, I would highly recommend it.
Hopefully I, or future generations to come, will never have to see anything like this.