New Test During Pregnancy Might Be Bad News for Human Race

fetusWhat if you could know your all about your baby's DNA before birth? All without any invasive or risky testing. This incredible procedure was done for the first time with over 90 percent accuracy by researchers at the University of Washington. They took a blood sample from mom and the saliva from dad and put together a near-total genome sequence of the fetus, possibly making thousands of genetic diseases known before baby is born. With more research and cost cutting, this could mean no more need for amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling.

But it also raises a lot of ethical questions. If this becomes an easy test, would this change more parents' decision to have a baby with a potential genetic disease? Would this open the door to genetically modified babies? I'm a bit worried about what this all could mean.

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Of course, it really depends on what you believe. But with this DNA construction, the testing could be done at 8 weeks gestation, opposed to 16 weeks when women can get an amnio. Earlier detection, more time to prepare? Or choose another route? It's still not feasible for most though as currently this new procedure is not only extremely expensive -- $50,000 -- but the results take a month to receive. Still, they are in the early stages of development with hopes of a faster turnaround and for a price that most can afford.

If I'm looking on the bright side, perhaps it could help give more insight into genetic diseases and lead to positive outcomes. But what if it enables some to go beyond selectively aborting a fetus because of a genetic defect. What if people want a designer child, say a boy with blond hair, and the testing reveals that it was a girl with brown hair, would this make people abort the fetus in order to try again to create their "perfect" baby. Further down the road, if more medical advancements were made, could this lead to researchers being able to genetically modify fetuses?

There was once a time when the Internet didn't exist. So we can't think something like this couldn't happen. I'm not sure how to feel. Scared. Happy. Concerned.

One of the comments on the CNN article on the topic made me think. "winema" said: "Having a handicap child would probably prevent them from having more children, so we are actually saving lives of the fetus siblings. Also parents who have genetic disorders now are very likely to remain childless, because they afraid that child will inherit their condition, but with this technology we give them hope, so they can try to have a healthy child. So again, we are saving healthy child life by telling parents if he has genetic problem or not."

Isn't our current genetic testing enough? Do we need to know every possibility beforehand? Could we go overboard with the information? What if it says your child may have a heart condition at some point, would that change a parent's mind into not wanting that child? Even if it's something that may not happen? Even if it's something that can be treated?

In our hearts as parents, we know what we can or can't handle. And the decision to have a baby is a big one, whether or not that child is healthy or not. We make our decisions based on that. At least I'd like to think so.

But where is the line drawn? It definitely gives us a lot to think about it. There are more questions than answers.

Is this procedure something to fear or a positive step for potential prevention? Would you want to get this type of testing done during pregnancy?


Image via Spec-ta-cles/Flickr

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