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Ethics of Genetic Testing for Aesthetics

Some prospective parents are looking beyond genetic testing to determine whether their children might inherit disease-causing mutations to explore their chances of inheriting aesthetic traits like eye color, leading to ethical questions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It writes that companies like Genomic Prediction now offer tests that gauge an embryo's risk of developing complex health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and that researchers at that company have been researching whether they can predict height, too. Meanwhile, a California-based clinic, Fertility Institute, is offering, in addition to its genetic disease screening, eye color testing, the Journal adds.

The Oregon Health & Science University's Paula Amato tells the Journal that genetic testing to prevent disease is generally seen as ethically permissible, as is sex selection, though she notes that is more controversial. But the Hastings Center's Josephine Johnston says at the Journal that selection based on traits like eye color "can seem awfully close to a eugenic mind-set, where we thought we can sort the worthy and fit from the unworthy and unfit."

A woman who sought testing for disease risk as well as eye color tells the Journal that screening just shows what's possible, and her husband adds that it's just one more test. "You are there already," he tells the Journal.