Craig Ventor of Celera Genomics, Rockville, MD, and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health and Wellcome Trust, London, England, simultaneously presented the sequence of human DNA in June of 2000, accomplishing the first major endeavor of the Human Genome Project (HGP) (Ridley 2). As scientists link human characteristics to genes-segments of DNA found on one or more of the 23 human chromosomes-prospects for genetic engineering will increase dramatically. One relatively simple but powerful application of the HGP is genetic screening. By abstracting and analyzing DNA from embryos, fetuses, children or adults, one can detect the presence or absence of specific genes. While some people think of genetic screening as a great scientific and medical advancement, others see it as a frightening and dangerous enterprise. With careful regulation, I believe genetic screening can affect individuals in a beneficial manner.
Pre-natal genetic screening is currently used in high-risk pregnancies for detection of diseases such as Down Syndrome and Huntington's chorea (Ridley 55, 98). As scientists determine the genes for additional genetic conditions, screening of embryos will provide more information to potential parents before their fetus is fully developed. If a screened fetus were found to carry genes for a particular disease or disability, its parents might selectively abort it. Many individuals who believe in pro-choice abortion laws advocate pre-natal screening for genetic diseases because the abortion of fetuses with undesirable traits may decrease the number of unwanted children. Those against abortion strongly oppose pre-natal screening, predicting an increase in abor...
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...guidelines could eliminate many of these destructive effects. Pre-natal screening should only test for 'abortion-worthy' diseases determined by a national or international bioethics committee. Children and adults should be screened for particular diseases or conditions when/if family medical histories or physical examinations find reason to do so. With such policies, I believe that genetic screening will beneficially revolutionize obstetric and preventative medicine.
Gibbs, Nancy and Michael Duffy. "We Must Proceed With Great Care." Time.
Hubbard, Ruth and Elijah Wald. Exploring the Gene Myth. Boston: Beacon Press.
Lemonick, Michael P. "Smart Genes?" Time 13 Sept. 1999.
Ridley, Matt. Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Perennial.
Snell, Marilyn B. "Tempest in a Pill Box." Sierra 85 (2000): 18-19.
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