Saturday, 11 August 2012

Perfect people

Have just finished reading Perfect People by Peter James. It's a superbly conceived (perhaps an unfortunate word in the context of the storyline!) and written thriller. It begins with a couple who are struggling to cope with the death of their first child as a result of a rare genetic disease. As they plan a further pregnancy they seek the help of the enigmatic Dr Dettore, a brilliant fertility specialist who offers them various options in genetic manipulation, not only to rule out serious conditions but also to enable intellectual and physical advantages, whether it be size, visual acuity or, sporting abilities. You chose it for your offspring, and you can have it.

The story follows their quest for the perfect child, and leads us on through a sinister labyrinth of unintended consequences and concluding with a stunning denouement.

The book is a great read, with short chapters always teasing and leading on to the next, and with more than enough unpredictability to keep the interest going. But it is also a salutary read, which although currently in the realms of science fiction, should perhaps make us pause whilst current fertility practice continues on apace in advance of  careful and thoughtful anticipation of consequences. It's only  just over 25 year since Louise Brown, the world's first IVF babe was born in July 1978 and only now can we begin to assess the longer term effects upon parents, surrogate mothers, sperm donors and the children born as a result of the various technologies.

Kierkegaard's adage that life is lived forwards but only understood backwards, is never more true than when tinkering with medical ethics.
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