meanderingvoice

Musings about my world as I see it

Perfect delivery

You may wonder what the science-fiction movie, Gattaca, could have in common with a baby born recently in China.
They’re both stories about prejudice against imperfect humans. In Gattaca the bias is held by society against a man who is intelligent, but who has physical deficiencies. In China, a baby’s own father has had his revulsion of his child backed-up by the legal system.

Vincent and Irene. Gattaca

A Chinese man, Jian Feng, recently divorced his wife because she gave birth to an ugly baby. His ultimate argument is that he wouldn’t have sired a child with a woman whose DNA could potentially produce the child it did.

The baby in question.
‘There’s only one beautiful baby in the world, and every mother has it.’ Anon

“Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me,” Jian Feng said.

Initially he accused his wife of infidelity for the abomination that was his own child, but DNA testing proved his paternity. Eventually he sued his ex-wife because he felt she had married him under false pretenses. He thought he’d married a beauty, and he had. What he didn’t know was that she’d spent six figures on plastic surgery to achieve her beautiful look.

Before surgery, left. After surgery, right.

The judge found in the man’s favour and awarded the father $120,000 in damages.

This disturbing story has raised a multitude of questions for me.

  • Should women (and men) disclose all medical procedures if they’re getting serious about each other? If so, when?
  • What should be disclosed? Personally, I have no issue with a person’s looks, but would worry at genetic problems such as haemophilia, or a family history of cancers.
  • What happens if there is a latent genetic problem that isn’t known about?
  • Should we all sign comprehensive genetic information disclosure documents in future, so our potential partners are fully informed?
  • Aren’t relationships turbulent enough without this extra stress?

This situation, like the one in Gattaca, leaves me feeling disappointed in people. It also makes me want to weep that a newborn baby has been judged so harshly the moment she was born.

Gattaca is a great movie, mostly because it seemed so unlikely a premise that I couldn’t be offended by the content.

“A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.”  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/

That’s not to say the story’s premise isn’t offensive. It is. What I loved about it was that the main character Vincent, played by Ethan Hawke, fought against his fate to improve himself. His defiance is inspiring.

Vincent plants some DNA

An interesting parallel between Gattaca and the Chinese father is that DNA testing was used in both cases.

Uma Thurman plays the genetically perfect love interest, Irene, in Gattaca.

Perfect romance, Gattaca style

She collects Vincent’s DNA material from his work area for professional testing. She considers Vincent a likely partner but needs to know the quality of his DNA first. The results say she’s picked a thoroughbred. (If you want to know more, watch the movie.  I don’t want to spoil it.)

Ultimately, nobody can claim perfection. Perhaps the old adage ‘buyer-beware’ should apply in these cases. Anyway, they call it ‘falling’ in love for a good reason. Maybe we overthink these things too much. Or maybe in a country that has a one-child population control policy, parents really have to think about these things.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Perfect delivery

  1. Excellent post! I definitely don’t have any answers to your questions but it sure has got me thinking. It seems so wrong to sue the mother of your child because you find the child hideous, but at the same time if he’d known what this woman really looked like he probably wouldn’t have been with her. The problem is so interesting. Obviously this guy is shallow, but does that make him wrong? Intuitively we’d really want to say yes, but perhaps the flip side is the perceived deception of people who have had radical surgery. I guess the point is, how much do we really need to know about a person before we will commit to them? Or rather, how much do we need to know so that we won’t feel deceived in the future?

    • Thanks arscoquinariabioethique
      I’m glad you liked it.
      You’re right, we have no answers to these questions yet. It’s very possible we will have them in future as more genetically ‘ugly’ women have babies. I wish it weren’t so, but I suspect it will be.

      I feel most for the poor child. The best revenge would be for her to grow into a Nobel Prize winning swan. You can bet her father would be beating down her door then.

      I recall a company set up in the early days of IVF where beautiful women could be impregnated with the sperm of geniuses.
      When asked why he wouldn’t partake, one not-so-beautiful genius said: What if the child were to have your brains and my beauty?

      Bottom line is that we can’t ever know what our DNA will do to our offspring. It’s possible the father in this case has ugliness in his DNA as well. (Apart from his ugly personality, that is.) Should we really get into genetic profiling, like they did in Gattaca? And on it goes…

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