Test your genes before sex?The Human Genetic Commission, (who advise the government) has recommended so-called "preconception tests" for children.
Preconception tests are basically genetic testing for "hidden" abnormalities.
The Commission is recommending that children are tested for genetic defects before they become sexual active, so as to avoid or limit the risk of these defects being passed to their own children.
Those with a greater risk of passing on a serious abnormality would be able to consider IVF treatment, using donor eggs, donor sperm or adopting.
The whole debate raises questions about whether medicine should be used to select healthy genes or de-select unhealthy genes. Analysing the genetic makeup of children is bound to be controversial.
The Commission was asked by the Department of Health in 2009 to report on the ethical and legal questions raised by preconception testing.
The Commission is recommending that the issue be dealt with as part of sex education.
Schools in some Australian and Canadian states already routinely test children for genetic conditions.
Genetic test kits are already available for sale and can test for approximately 100 known genetic diseases. A new test developed by the National Center for Genome Resources in New Mexico can now screen 580 conditions.
Testing may become available through the NHS, however this could be limited to those who have a family history of serious conditions. This is something that is already happening in the UK and other countries, albeit as part of private healthcare.
The whole issue is likely to prove uncomfortable for some, including religious groups. The "designer baby" tag is bound to come up.
Avoiding avoidable diseases should be considered a positive thing. However, those that are wary of it must be rightly convinced that safeguards will be put in place.
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