Genetic Testing for the Masses
The New York Times reports in the article Firm Brings Gene Tests to Masses that it can help eradicate 100 diseases through genetic testing. The company takes DNA from two prospective parents and tells them if they are both carriers for diseases including cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, spinal muscular atrophy, sickle cell disease and Pompe disease (featured in the new movie "Extraordinary Measures" which is giving this company extraordinary publicity). If both parents are carriers, there becomes a one in four chance that a child will have the disease.
The next step for the would-be parents is then to use in vitro fertilization, testing each embryo before implantation to discard any that have the disease. I'm no Ludite, but this sort of unbridled use of genetic testing is scary. Not only is the technology untested, but the end result of parents going through expensive tests as a part of an already costly fertilization process means that the wealthy or the willing to go in to debt now have a high tech means to accomplish the deplorable practice from ancient times of leaving undesirable babies exposed to the elements.
I don't know and can't pretend to know the emotional toll raising a child with an inherited disease like the ones tested takes on a family. Alleviating that suffering would seem to be worth a great dollar cost for those who could afford it. But this process of elimination means to get the right baby seems to solve the problem of suffering with yet more suffering. The DNA testing will create heightened anxiety for prospective parents and lead to sure pain and loss as a means to prevent the possibility of problems. I say the gains are too small. The emotional cost is too high. What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
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