according to Jacques Testart, pioneer of the MAP1
Jacques Testart, “scientific father” of the first test-tube baby in 1982, warns about the eugenics drifts of the pre-implantation diagnosis (PID). His last book “Faire des enfants demain” prevents the medicalization of the procreation and eugenics it will cause.
G: Today 3% of the children of industrialized countries are born every year through MAP. In France, in 2011, we have 22,401 children born through MAP. You talk about the craze for the MAP, which will keep growing. How do you explain it?
J.T: We can show an increase of activity of MAP by the number of the babies born, and also by the physiological particularity of the couples who request the MAP. The statistics we had thanks to professionals counted each year the number of cases treated and the reasons of resorting to MAP for each case. There were always unexplained cases (idiopathic sterility), for which there is no biologic or medical mean to explain the sterility of the couple. This represented around 5% of people treated at the early beginning of the IVF2 In the last decade we count 25%. Which increases the number of couples for whom there are no medical indications, what the law makes mandatory. This shows that we trivialize the procedure and that many people ask for the MAP to have babies when this does not come right away. The college of gynaecology-obstetrics in France took position in December 2012 to open the MAP to societal indications. This is a quite scandalous idea, because this would need to treat people who are not defective.
These societal indications make already part of the unexplained reasons of the MAP. It deals with the general ideology which consists in thinking that, as there are specialists somewhere who allow the performance where we are no competent, the technology must be consume.
G: For you the real eugenic danger is induced by the PID3 and not by the PND4 of the Down syndrome for instance, why?
J.T: Eugenics has always existed. All the human civilizations (See Sparta) have killed birth defect children. This is a classical point Christianity slowed down. Today people of goodwill, act in such a way that they prepare a real mass eugenics without measuring the consequences. This eugenics I consider it as “soft, democratic, consensual, benevolent” because it is not bad, because it does not play on already born individuals, because it does not create pains because there is no suffering to remove from embryos in laboratory.
The PID announces a new eugenics. In comparison eugenics of the medically termination of pregnancy (MTP) seems rudimentary. Because the MTP, even if most of people with Down syndrome are eliminated through this way, will never be an usual practice to have babies and to refuse minor pathologies for his mental and physical tests. It requires postponing the birth of a desired child the parents decided to kill. Paradoxically, this remains in the humanity as MTP has its own limit. Suffering to pursue one’s will to have a child free from such a defect.
It is the contrary with eugenics caused by the PID. Because this one consists in sorting the best of the child to start a pregnancy. This way we do no lose time, we do not suffer (except today from tests related to IVF). We only need to make 5 to 10 embryos, to keep 2 and to eliminate the others.
And then, the day when the Asian laboratories will create gametes5 through iPS, in particular oocytes, we will be able to manufacture hundreds of embryos without the heaviness of the IVF. We will act on populations, without imposed obligations: The woman will not have to perform blood tests, ultrasonography, oocyte puncture… she will have to give a skin fragment and all will take place in the biomedical surrounding. We will choose the embryo with the best quality promises.
This is the future eugenics. The MTP cannot be extended, we already kill all Down syndrome people, we cannot do more, and we do not remove from the human species the genetic causes of pathologies. This eugenics is thus for me technically limited. On the contrary, the PID is the fantastic tool eugenics people have ever dreamt of, because it has all the qualities we could expect to “improve” humanity. We are moving to a society of human breeding, as we do it for cows, chicken and corn. This is also the transhumanism.
G: You warn that the PID will extend and generalize. But yet, in 2011, the legislator renewed its refusal to establish a list of pathologies which can be detected through the PID.
J.T: In France, the PID is only supposed to help couples who are at risk to transmit a particularly severe disease. But the medical tourism shows these laws do not satisfy French couples who perform a larger PID in our neighbouring countries. In England for instance, the PID allows detecting strabismus. I cannot see how France will not fall into this drift. If Japanese and Korean laboratories succeed within four years to deliver healthy mouse from gametes obtained by iPS within ten years, the eugenic future I foresee will be current for the human species. And if this discovery is not reliable, the idea to open the MAP to societal indications by freezing oocyte6 fragments will succeed in manufacturing oocyte and thus embryos abundantly. The situation would be almost the same. We have the impression that the society is waiting for eugenic miracle which would allow having the right to manufacture the children we want and without tests.
G: What are the solutions to stop this medicalization of the procreation and its eugenics consequences?
J.T: If we admit the right to the child, and better, to the “quality” child, we will not be able to prevent the drifts of our societies. The generalized PID, by creating a new humanity, will release it partially from the cancers for instance, but will make it at the same time less diversified and thus less resistant to external aggressions.
Paradoxically, the PID goes against the survival of the species.
This is why I propose rights of humanity, which would be opposed to individual claims in the name of the human species and would erect an international bioethics to protect our species.
But above all I hope a challenge of our lifestyle. We have to wonder about the growth and the competitiveness which are unhuman concepts (ant-humanist).
Today, there are a lot of technical but rarely human advances. If we want these human advances we have to accept to limit: less growth, frugality, share, conviviality… I think the only way to survive humanely.
It must be considered a different society which fixes limits and which respects them. Because today we consider that exceeding a limit is an advance. Limits must be urgently imposed for a life really full and fulfilled for all.
1. Medically assisted procreation;
2. In vitro fertilization;
3. Preimplantation diagnosis. Technique which aims at, during an in vitro fertilization, selecting the embryo without the particularly severe pathology the couple can transmit;
4. Prenatal diagnosis;
5. Already obtained in mouse;
6. Vitrification of oocytes for personal convenience.