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IVF Pioneer Ironically Claims Fertility Treatments May 'Threaten Our Humanity'

May 06, 2014 03:18 PM EDT
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In vitro fertilization (IVF) pioneer Lord Winston warned that the increased demand for fertility treatments could "threaten our humanity" if the rich were able to pay for so-called "designer babies," according to The Guardian.

Winston, 73, who is responsible for key advancements in IVF treatment, told fellow colleagues at a University of Kent conference that "we have been carried away" by breakthroughs in reproduction. Furthermore, the growing market and pressure to enhance human qualities could mean we "end up with a society where some people may actually have something that might threaten our humanity."

The Daily Mail even reported him saying that both doctors and patients are to blame.

"That mixture of enthusiasm and patient desperation is actually a very toxic and heady mixture. It is worthwhile standing back a little from the technologies that we employ," Winston said.

Eugenics is a controversial theory suggesting that humans can be improved by preventing people with supposedly undesirable qualities or genetic defects from reproducing.

Winston's argument may seem ironic, given his contribution to IVF treatments and the fact that he's brought 10,000 babies into the world, but Phillippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship praised his viewpoint.

"If Lord Winston is saying this, I hope that people take notice. He is someone who is an expert in the area but also someone who sees the bigger picture," Taylor told The Guardian.

But Dr. Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society, disagreed, and said parents are not interested in creating the perfect baby.

"Most infertile couples are desperate for a baby, rather than a specific type of baby, and I don't see that changing."

He added, "The law prohibits it, even if it was technically possible."

Winston's fears may be far off, but he asserts that it's an issue that still needs to be talked about.

"The age of eugenics is one that we don't think of as being important now," he said, adding, "I don't think it is impossible that this is necessarily going to die out."

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