Extending pre-pregnancy DNA screening - good thing or not?

(8 Posts)
meditrina Thu 07-Apr-11 06:30:08

Pre-pregnancy screening is already available to those with family histories of heritable conditions (eg cystic fibrosis). This proposal is to extend it to everyone on request.

Is this a Good Thing? I suppose it has to be, if it alerts people to the risks, and possibly changes their choices in light of the risks. But is it also a step towards eugenics - by providing the means to let others say "these people shouldn't breed"?

Chil1234 Thu 07-Apr-11 07:05:20

It has to be a good thing, especially as it's a voluntary arrangement. The mother of the child with cystic fibrosis interviewed on the R4 Today Programme put it very well, I thought, and would be a typical reaction. Whilst she was at pains to point out that she loves her child as she is, if she'd had the information prior to conception that she was at high risk, she may well have made different choices.

Sile14 Thu 07-Apr-11 15:01:58

Hello Ladies,

My name is Sheila Cunningham. I am a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.
I have to produce a 2 minute TV news package for my final portfolio coursework at the University (Which has to be done before Tuesday).
I was hoping to interview someone who has a child with Cystic Fibrosis in the North West of England.
Would anyone be willing to talk to me about this asap?
It will not be broadcasted, it will only be for my tutor to see.
I would be extremely grateful for anyone's help.

Kind Regards,
Sheila Cunningham
My mobile number is 07766977883

tomburkard Thu 07-Apr-11 16:23:36

Meditrina has got it right. I am sure we all have some heritable condition that someone, somewhere will find objectionable. Eventually the only people allowed to breed will be creeps in white coats and senior civil servants.

Highlander Thu 07-Apr-11 16:38:50

anyone who wants this type of testing will be referred to a Consultant Geneticist (a docotr who specialises in inherited diseases). Before any testing is carried out, patinets will be thoroughly counselled as to what information they will receive from testing, what it means, and what choices they can make.

Geneticists are not in the business of eugenics.

DH and I had pre-pregnancy screening, as he has a disability which may (or may not) be genetic in origin. As Highlander says, we were referred to geneticists who started by talking through the whole issue of what we hoped to find out from the process, how we would feel about the results, etc. Then when they were sure we understood and were happy to proceed, they took family histories, then explained possibilities and likelihoods. The whole time, they were clear that they were there to give us information, and to help us understand it, but that the choice of whether or not we would then want to go ahead with a pregnancy was entirely up to us.

So I don't think there is any reason to fear that this will slide towards eugenics - if they are this professional with people who already have a possibly-genetic condition, then I don't see why they would be any less so with people who don't have a condition but want to talk about probabilities.

foreverondiet Thu 07-Apr-11 22:37:01

My sister had genetic testing and found out she was a tay-sachs carrier. She insisted on all prospective boyfriends being tested before she's pursue a relationship. I think its good to have choices.

And anyway if a couple DO find out they both carry the same genetic disease they can still have children, just they might have PGD IVF to ensure their children don't have the disease. Some of these diseases are totally incompatible with life.

meditrina Fri 08-Apr-11 07:34:51

Highlander: I completely agree with you - geneticists aren't in the business of eugenics. And the current system is indeed very careful. And there is of course nothing unethical about screening per se, and as pointed out by posters above it is valuable in the way it is currently done.

Would that change if used across the population?

Would the information stay with the geneticists? At present there is a gentleman's agreement with insurers about such testing (allowing it to remain confidential), but that wasn't the case in the early days of HIV testing (all tests, including those with negative results has to be declared) and may of course change in the future. Because of course this would surface information about each possible parent and their future health.

And then there are the social consequences - if it became the norm, what would happen to those with adverse or iffy results? Would they be less desirable as partners? (Not everyone is going to be able to afford IVF, if children were a life priority for you, would you stay with a man with a risk factor of 1:4? 1:12? 1:50? 1:100?)

Who will hold this national DNA database?

BTW: does anyone know what proportion of disability arises from identifiable genetic conditions, and how much from eg random deletions in DNA or interference with growth?

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