Talk about a euphemism – “Preconception Genetic Testing“. This is sure to stir up controversy as I suspect many will have serious objections to a government body interjecting itself into decisions involving procreative choice. Basically the Human Genetic Commission is proposing adopting a model of negative eugenics with the goal of enhancing human characteristics while eliminating any undesirable genes from the human population. What would be next, compulsory sterilization of any citizen who possesses a gene deemed to be undesirable?
Children should be screened before they have sex to see if they have any abnormalities that could be passed on to their offspring. The Human Genetic Commission wants youngsters to have ‘preconception’ genetic testing before they become sexually active.
This will allow doctors to see if there are any conditions which could be passed on, giving them the option to undergo IVF treatment, sperm or egg donation, or adoption. The Human Genetic Commission says children should be screened before starting sexual relationships to see if they have genetic defects that could be passed on to their offspring.
The idea of such tests are likely to cause controversy over whether or not people should intervene in nature to decide outcomes at birth. The commission also wants children to be taught about the transmission of genetic conditions at school as part of their sex education.
In Australia and Canada, there are tests for some genetic conditions already but it is also hoped that children will be encouraged to take a test before they start having sexual relationships. Ministers will look at the report and are due to respond over the coming weeks, but there will be concerns about the financial implications.
It is also thought the Government will fear a backlash from church groups and ethical campaigners concerned with a move towards ‘designer babies’, according to the Daily Telegraph. The report defends the screening, saying it is no different to antenatal scans and that parents often want to know if their baby has a condition before it is born.
Preconception kits are already available but, at £400, they are expensive and can only detect 100 diseases. When a cheaper version arrives, which can spot other conditions, it is believed the test will become available on the NHS.
If two consenting adults elect to do Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or any other form of genetic screening before starting a family, more power to them. However, governments ought to be very careful before promoting any form of eugenics lest it be compared to the Nazi eugenic policies of the 1930s.