Technician using a microscope
The scope of prenatal genetic testing is beginning to stir debate. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Physicians and scientists worldwide are beginning to debate the ethical ramifications of prenatal genetic testing. Discovering the gender, eye color or possible genetic defects of an unborn child implies that people could abort children for frivolous cosmetic reasons or wage genocide against the disabled in the womb.

Genetic testing revisits ‘playing God’ debate

A recent story by the Associated Press covered many of the implications of prenatal screening, noting that detecting things like pre-disposition to depression, homosexuality or more trivial things like hair color or eye color is still a long ways off. A similar blog post appeared on Medical News Today, a health care news blog. In the past decade or two, the ability of doctors to test for genetic markers has dramatically improved, and the mapping of the human genome is a giant step forward in the science of understanding human genetics. As a result, the amount of information that can be gleaned by doctors while a child is gestating is increasing at a substantial pace, and many are fearing that parents will one day be able to “play God” and design the perfect child.

Advance testing for sports

There are a growing number of genetic tests and innovations in genetic testing. For instance, a company based in Richmond, Va., announced earlier this year that it had developed a genetic test to determine for which sports a person is most genetically suited, according to the Washington Post. The company, American International Biotechnology Services, is currently seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to keep selling genetic testing kits akin to other genetic testing kits like the home paternity tests that have been available for a few years. The FDA was incensed that the tests weren’t FDA approved before being sold.

Detecting serious disability

Genetic testing is also used to detect disabilities, especially developmental disabilities. Earlier this year, a new method of testing for Down Syndrome was discovered by a clinic in Cyprus, according to Reuters. A small sample of the fetus’ blood is compared with that of the mother, and genetic markers are compared to discern if the fetus has the disability. It is less invasive than typical forms of detecting Down Syndrome in fetuses, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, both of which carry a small risk of inducing a miscarriage. Some people also note, according to Fox, that the number of children born with Down Syndrome is decreasing, signifying that many of these children are aborted. No test exists for disabilities such as autism or ADHD, but one may be invented soon. According to CBS, the rates of developmental disabilities such as autism increased 17 percent between 1997 and 2008. An estimated 15 percent of children have a developmental disability of some sort.

Sources

Associated Press: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g1NcxKZ2gCjVQnevaelRX6waka2Q?docId=e2b1656b48b44239aa1a7364917525ce

Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/228350.php

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/genetic-testing-company-promises-to-prove-sports-testing-accuracy/2011/05/25/AGD38FBH_blog.html

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/06/us-downs-test-idUSTRE72523F20110306

Fox: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/06/13/comfort-or-conflict-earlier-down-syndrome-test/

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20065315-10391704.html

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