Designer babies are in high demand. The market is expanding in a consumer oriented society. This creates a cause for concern if designer babies and the market surrounding it are ethical. The market for designer babies, a biotechnology, includes preimplantation genetic diagnosis, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), sperm banks, surrogacy, and counseling. Designer babies impact on society is important to analyze because it could change the relationship between people and having babies.

The demands for aspects of designer babies has created an expensive market which businesses can profit from. The price of surrogacy can range from $20,000-$120,000. Also in the U.S., a sperm bank can charge between $250-$400 per specimen and pays the donor about $75 per specimen.  Sperm banks seek out people with certain characteristics and notable acknowledgements such as being an olympic athlete or winning a nobel prize. In addition, eggs can cost up to $50,000. Eggs fetching the highest price are in demand from women who are healthy, tall, white, athletic, and have high SAT scores. This baby market makes creating a baby expensive for the consumer and profitable for the person and business selling the specimen. Also, people can potentially exploit the unregulated designer baby market in the U.S. This can occur if a surrogate does not have as much money as the couple paying for the surrogate which means a surrogate might not be able to pay for a lawyer to thoroughly read through a surrogacy contract. Further, a consumerism view is now strongly associated with designer babies because designer babies allow for baby businesses to develop. This market brings into question if designer babies are ethical?

The ability for people to choose characteristics of designer babies poses ethical issues. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) allows for the advanced screening of characteristics. This is helpful for determining if an embryo will have a fatal condition so then that embryo will not be implanted if the embryo has a fatal condition. However, PGD screening can also determine sex, physical, social, and psychological characteristics. So, a couple could potentially choose not to implant certain embryos of a certain sex or if an embryo has a certain condition like down syndrome. With this biotechnology, people have the ability to choose what will be reproduced.

Governments and individuals have reacted differently to these ethical issues surrounding designer babies. For instance, the United Kingdom allows for PGD screening of fatal conditions, but not for sex, physical, social, and psychological normal variations. In contrast, the U.S. has no laws or regulations pertaining to PGD. Also, the United Kingdom uses the language “normal variations”, but “normal” is a fluid word that changes through time and each culture which means that governments ethical interpretation of designer babies might change. One controversial example of the use of PGD is for “savior or sacrifice” siblings. For instance, a couple used PGD to screen embryos that matched their already born child’s DNA so the couple could use the umbilical cord of the “savior child” as a transplant to save their other child’s life.  Both children went on to live healthy lives, but the parents used the designer baby solely to save another person’s life. This use of biotechnology is ethically controversial.

Society has reacted to designer babies through the creation of a designer baby market and laws and regulations in certain countries. The biotechnology of designer babies allows for the the change of some social structures of families. For example, gay and lesbian couples could have a baby related to one partner genetically, single women could have a genetic baby, and a women who could not carry a baby could have a genetically related baby. The biotechnology of designer babies has created more opportunities for people to have genetically related children. However, it is important that the people participating in the use of designer baby biotechnology continue to question the ethical boundaries of designer babies.