Prenatal and Pediatric Genetic Screening and Intervention: Do We Want a Perfect Society?

Prenatal and Pediatric Genetic Screening and Intervention: Do We Want a Perfect Society?

Why integrate the innovation of genetic screening and testing? Statistically, genetic disorders in the U.S. are the 2nd leading cause of death among children one to four years old; and are the third leading cause of death among teenagers 15 to 17 years old. Predetermination of genetic tendencies can facilitate preventative management of potential cancer and/or other diseases and chromosomal abnormalities

Genetic screening and genetic testing are not the same things. Genetic screening is measuring a level of risk for genetic diseases in the fetus. Genetic screening is described as population-based screening. For example, African Americans are known to be subject to a higher risk of having sickle cell disease due to the presence of a specific gene. Genetic testing is performed based on genetic screening and consists of more rigid tests. If a person suspects they have the disease gene due to family history, then this person will undergo genetic testing. Screening tests assess the degree of risk or chance that the fetus may potentially have certain common birth defects, but they cannot tell with certainty if the baby actually has the problem, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The fact that not enough is known about the rate of false positives, and that the public may not be properly counseled on how to interpret the results raises ethical concerns. Only our creator could possess this type of knowledge.

A new screening test done at 10 weeks of pregnancy called “cell-free fetal DNA testing,” uses the mother’s blood to detect Down Syndrome. This has stirred controversy regarding how we treat fetuses affected with Down Syndrome and other forms of mental retardation. New non-invasive blood tests can locate fetal blood cells in a pregnant woman’s blood stream much earlier, with a lower risk of false positives.

Medical science performs genetic screening and testing for the purpose of prevention and for effective management of defects and diseases. Sometimes it is possible to curtail a condition before birth. Reducing full biopsies to one single blood test lowers costs tests. Testing for BRCA1 & 2 genes facilitates early warning of breast cancer. Heredity is a gamble today. Perhaps screening will reduced these risks in the future.

However, we are all familiar with linking prenatal tests to the abortion controversy because women who receive positive test results often terminate pregnancies. Not every person has the emotional fortitude or aptitude to nurture a severely handicapped child. Once again, we are placed in a position of having to advocate the intangible subject of morality. Is this a model that our society wants to utilize, making genetic modifications only to discard the results that don’t work perfectly? The prevailing arguments apply: a. If the unborn are fully human, then to promote the aborting of the handicapped unborn is no different morally than promoting the execution of handicapped people who are already born. b. People would then have a right to inflict suffering on another if it relieved them of their own. Should we not strive in our personal growth to have the love, compassion and patience to appreciate the accomplishments of a handicapped child? Many handicapped individuals, who have described their lives as happy, are opposed to such abortions.

How many of us are taken aback that physicians are projecting Down Syndrome diagnoses with a negative bias? This could reflect a lack of support and empathy for a parent during the especially stressful event of being informed there is a better than average possibility that their fetal child has a defect.

The life expectancy for Down Syndrome subjects has dramatically increased to age 60. Simply and thoroughly expressed, the answer is as follows: Are children with Down Syndrome worthy of our love?