4 October 2013
Ethics of Genetic Screening
Today’s media commentry of a US company’s new genetic test that screens for traits such as eye colour or athleticism is clearly not what our patients or medical team are focused on, rather at the centre of our care is the desire for a healthy baby.
Preimplantation Genetics is a powerful area of reproductive science successful in assisting people who are at risk of a variety of inherited conditions, including birth defects and genetic disorders screening against specific conditions to minimise the risk of passing these often life threatening conditions on to a child.
IVFAustralia’s Genetics Team regularly uses Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) a highly sophisticated scientific technique to test embryos for specific genetic or chromosomal abnormalities during the embryo's development enabling the selection of unaffected embryos to transfer to the woman for implantation, pregnancy and a healthy baby.
“I have not had a patient ask for genetic screening on the appearance or physical stature of a child. Occasionally for the sex particularly where a family already has 3 or 4 children of the same sex and for family balancing if they are hoping for the opposite sex child. But this notion of designer babies is misguided. The people we care for are focused on a healthy child," said A/Prof Peter Illingworth, Medical Director IVFAustralia.
Typically Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis is considered if people are concerned about any of the following issues:
- risk of having a child with an inherited genetic condition
- either partner has a known family history of chromosome rearrangement
- previous chromosomal abnormality in a pregnancy
- advanced maternal age (usually to test for Down syndrome where the mother is over 38 years old)
- recurrent miscarriage
- repeated embryo transfers without pregnancy
- if you would find it difficult to consider termination of an affected pregnancy
Read the story in The Australian, Ethics worry over genetic engineering of 'designer babies'