In Gattaca (1997), Irene appeared to be a Valid, but why does she have a heart problem? I understand that a heart problem would not matter to her occupation in Gattaca. In Gattaca, she accepts not going to space and becomes an assistant instead. What I don't get was why her heart problem was not eliminated from conception in the first place. I think heart issues would be one of the first things to be eliminated if some parents want their children to be Valids.

screencap of Irene

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    Software isn't free from bugs, cars etc. often have mechanical defects in their designs, etc. Genetics is far more complicated and random than either of those things.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 9:40
  • @BCdotWEB yes, I understand cars can have defects but cars cannot have an error that there are three wheels only. Heart problem is big issue and would be first to be eleminated.
    – Dat
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 10:35
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    Also, IIRC the genetic work happens before birth. In Irene 's case they might simply not have detected the defect until later in life.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 13:50
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    Also, throughout the movie, the values of those predictions change. I think real Jeromes score drops from 9.8 to 9.3, Vincent's heart failure chance drops from 99 to 90 percent Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


Irene appeared to be a Valid, but why does she have a heart problem?

The science is not 100%. As evidenced by Lamar's dialogue much later:

Unfortunately my son's not all that they promised.

You then say:

I understand that a heart problem would not matter to her occupation in Gattaca. She accepts not going to space and becomes an assistant in Gattaca.

Well, it does, she feels like a second-class citizen, less than the best, reduced to an assistant. She is an assistant because her heart problem did matter, preventing her from getting a better job.

The only trip I'll make in space is around the sun--on this satellite right here.

Also note that when Irene protests being removed from her work to assist the investigators, Director Josef's reply was more of contempt than of reassurance:

Your place is assured

Another reference to the inequality amongst the Valid's is when the investigators are in the exercise room, with Jerome's heart beat being monitored:


Even amongst your people you must have varying levels of excellence.

Director Josef:

Occasionally we've been forced to accept candidates with minor short-comings.

Not directly related but when it came to Vincent's brother's enhanced modification, the Geneticist explains:

Now you appreciate I can only work with the raw material I have at my disposal.

I have to caution you it's not fool-proof. With multi-gene traits there can be no guarantees.

(I've noted that deleted scenes have the above line intact)

References from the draft script: https://imsdb.com/scripts/Gattaca.html


This draft, whist a lot of it is intact in the final film, also has parts that make the situation clearer:

Other Valids are shown as having issues:

Jerome's colleague, Napoleon (not in the final film) is shown to be similarly limited in some way, despite also being a Valid.


  • So I acknowledge that the genetics are so complicated and heart problems have many different kinds so the geneticsts simply can not earse all heart problems.
    – Dat
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 16:40
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    @Dat: I want to say I remember there being an implication that the genetic manipulation has been improving (fairly rapidly) over time, and that more money buys better results. The newest generation might be free of these sorts of heart problems. The children of the richest (those who can afford say, $10M in genetic screening per child from the top geneticist in the country, vs. $500K for the bottom quintile of their class geneticists) might be free of it too. And of course, genetics isn't destiny; congenital defects and disease or malnutrition damage can occur even with "perfect" genes. Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 19:48
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    IIRC, when Vincent's parent explains that they want a child conceived naturally, the geneticist laugh at them and explains it is a foolish idea and that "there are already many thing that can go wrong" when engineering children.
    – Taladris
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 13:22
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    "You want to give your child the best possible start... Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already." Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 13:41
  • I understand something can go wrong but not serious issue like heart problem
    – Dat
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 14:38

Per the original script, her heart condition isn't something that's likely to be an issue until she's well past retirement age. Given her superior looks and exceptional IQ, this is apparently sufficient to make her a 'valid', even if she's flawed.

IRENE: (enjoying his unease) It's here. My heart. (adding quickly) I'm careful--weekly check-ups. I'm on a drug maintenance program, blood thinners, diet--(slowly removing his hand) I just want you to know what you'd be getting yourself into.

JEROME: What exactly is wrong?

IRENE: Nothing yet. I'll start experiencing symptoms in my late-fifties. (matter-of-fact) But unless they come up with something between now and then, I won't live much past 67.

You may wish to note that the majority of valids aren't genetically engineered. They're simply selected from the best embryos available.

GENETICIST: You want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built-in already. Your child doesn't need any additional burdens. And keep in mind, this child is still you, simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.

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