Designer Babies and Choosing Disabilities: Ethical Considerations of Deliberately Creating a Disabled Child by IVF

Boniuk-Tanzman Memorial Lecture on Jewish Medical Ethics

Dr. Daniel Eisenberg considers the traditional Jewish approach to the use of new reproductive technologies.


  • Designer Babies And Choosing Disabilities: Ethical Considerations Of Deliberately Creating A Disabled Child By IVF

    Boniuk-Tanzman Memorial Lecture in Jewish Medical Ethics by Dr. David Eisenberg (February 20, 2020)

Assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) have been used for decades to help infertile couples bear children and to assist couples to avoid genetic abnormalities in their offspring. We presume that the goal of “fertility clinics” would be to assist prospective parents to bring into the world healthy children. But what if the parents’ goal was to deliberately create a disabled child? Johns Hopkins researchers, inquiring into the practice of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, published a study reporting that 3% of U.S. fertility clinics stated that they had provided in vitro fertilization procedures to help families deliberately create children with a disability.

This lecture will consider the traditional Jewish approach to the use of new reproductive technologies, including:

  • Do we really want the best for our children?
  • Should we attempt to improve our children through selective implantation of embryos?
  • The use of In Vitro Fertilization to avoid disease or to create disability.
  • What is a disability and is there a prohibition of choosing a disabled child once IVF is being performed?
  • Halachic and philosophical justifications for avoiding disabilities.
  • Choosing infertility over possible disability.
  • Are there objective limitations on our ability to choose?

Dr. Daniel Eisenberg is Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Imaging at Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine and a practicing radiologist in the Department of Radiology at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia where he was a former member of the hospital ethics committee and currently sits on the IRB.

Dr. Eisenberg is a noted lecturer in the area of Jewish medical ethics, lecturing around the world, including serving as the medical ethics scholar-in-residence for the New England Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and for the Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research. Dr. Eisenberg has published multiple medical ethics articles in both the scholarly and lay press, contributing to both secular and Jewish books and periodicals. His articles and chapters have appeared in Beracha Le’Avraham, The Hadassah Jewish Family Book of Health and Wellness, and Global Viewpoints- Abortion and periodicals and journals (such as Cancer Investigation, Assia-Jewish Medical Ethics, the Jewish Press, The Jewish Observer, and Dr. Eisenberg has also written over 30 Jewish medical ethics articles for  Most recently, Dr. Eisenberg has developed the content for the human subject research web-based instructional module in ethics and professionalism for the American Board of Radiology.

We are glad to partner with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis for this event. To register please visit the event page at

For more information, contact Kathy Schmeltz at or 314-442-3761.


  • Daniel Eisenberg

  • Fannie Bialek

    Assistant Professor of Religion and Politics