New blood test prompts ‘designer baby’ fears

New genetic blood test prompts 'designer baby' fears

A new blood test that detects genetic abnormalities in unborn children could be available within five years.

The test could determine conditions such as Down’s Syndrome and cystic fibrosis as well as giving the gender of a foetus at just seven weeks – five weeks earlier than current tests show.

However campaigners have already highlighted the moral issues that may arise from the test and have raised concerns that it will encourage a designer baby mentality, where parents can select the sex of their unborn child and abort unwanted foetuses.

Josephine Quintavalle of the pro-life campaign Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: ‘It does not offer any possibility except the termination of the pregnancy. Having the right sex of a child will become another quest for perfection.’

They have also stressed that if all pregnant mothers receive the test, some may not be prepared for any results that show serious disease or abnormality in the foetus.

Tessa Homfray, consultant in clinical genetics at St George’s Hospital medical school in London commented on the news saying: ‘This new technique could revolutionise prenatal diagnosis. But the disadvantage is women could be having tests that they haven’t thought about properly.’

She added: ‘Women may want the test because it will reassure them that everything is great but we cannot prepare someone for an abnormal result totally. It could be psychologically damaging.’

Other medical experts have praised the test and say it is much safer than current tests for Down’s Syndrome. Women believed to be at risk are currently offered a procedure called an amniocentesis when a needle is inserted into the mother’s abdomen to take a sample of the foetus fluid. However, this can lead to miscarriage in one in 50 cases.

The new technique carries none of these risks. Jane Fisher, director of the charity Antenatal Results and Choices commented: ‘This test would be more accurate. Women do need to be fully prepared for that before they embark on it. It is much more serious than having just another blood test.’

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