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Selecting the Perfect Baby

The Ethics of Embryo Design


Julia Omarzu
Department of Psychology
Loras College


This dilemma case is based on the true story of Jack and Lisa Nash, whose daughter Molly was born with a rare genetic disorder, Fanconi anemia. By having another child with specific genetic markers, the Nashes hoped to cure Molly using stem cells from the new baby’s umbilical cord blood. Students learn about developmental disorders and consider the ethical issues of genetic manipulation and fertility treatments. Although the case was written for beginning developmental psychology students, the issues raised involving genetic manipulation, advances in medical technology, and scientific ethics would be relevant in many other science courses.


  • To demonstrate a basic understanding of how developmental disorders can be transmitted genetically, including the differences between disorders triggered by recessive genes, x-linked genes, and genetic mutation.
  • To explain in-vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, including basic risks involved with the procedures.
  • To consider and discuss ethical issues involved in these procedures.


Fanconi anemia; recessive-linked disorders; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; PGD; in vitro fertilization; IVF; Molly Nash; bioethics

Topical Areas

Ethics, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision, Discussion



Subject Headings

Psychology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Biotechnology  |   Biology (General)  |  

Date Posted


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