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Is it Right to Sequence DNA of Newborns? Experts Weigh in on Benefits, Consequences

Mar 29, 2017 08:45 AM EDT
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Any parent would want their children to be safe in the future, this is why a lot of them immediately use vaccines to ensure their child's health. But what if scientists can screen children at birth with standardized genetic tests?

This is the brewing conflict in the medical community as genome sequencing technology is further being developed. It may even be economically possible for a lot of parents, even to a point that it can become mandatory.

However, some scientists do not seem comfortable with the idea of fully providing a baby's genetic information to parents.

According to Scientific American, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has asked the help of four university medical centers around the country to see whether or not genome sequencinging a baby's genetic code is a good option for parents.

Michelle Lewis from the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics said this worries her because parents will eventually wind up knowing that much of their child's genome is still far from developed.

She also adds that hospitals and laboratories will be understaffed if demand for tests spike, and experts may not be able to accommodate all parents who want to get to know their children better. The spike in DNA tests will make it more difficult for other patients with urgent medical needs to make appointments.

However, this is the direction everything is going. Robert Green of BabySeq says genome sequencing will be so cheap that everyone will be open for it. BabySeq is a newborn-screening study in Brigham and Women's Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital, which is one of NIH's four study sites.

BabySeq plans to see how parents and doctors will use genome data to improve the healthcare of babies as they grow up. Even if genome sequencing's potential is good, Green still understands that "data vomiting" parents is not exactly a good idea.

There are a lot of potentially harmful effects, especially anxiety and distress, that can come with misinterpreting information. This means doctors also have to assess the potential harm that these information may cause to parents.

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