The more we know about genetics, the more we must be careful, according to a comment posted on the site of religious think-tank Theos.
In a piece called Genetic screening: playing God?, Francesca Henbest, a theology student at the University of Durham, said that once the door was opened to performing preconception genetic testing, this could let through a host of other ethical issues, such as screening out even minor disabilities.
Referring to the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), which approved such testing to see whether parents were carriers of diseases, Francesca Henbest argued that this will become a mainstream test for would-be parents.
She said, ‘The UK National Screening Committee can now decide whether to introduce the tests in GP surgeries and IVF clinics, with developers of the test arguing that “It is something that should be on the radar of every adult before having a child”.
‘At the moment the report advises that counselling should be available alongside all tests, yet the US firm that developed the kit plans to sell it online, without medical advice’.
Already there are worries that genetic data could become required information for any future partner, leading young people with ‘undesirable genes’ being stigmatised and unmarriageable.
She added, ‘Talk of “screening unhealthy genes” and “discarding imperfect embryos” could affect those who live with multiple sclerosis and even those born with a cleft palate.
‘Will they feel their lives are not worth living? Who are we to say which conditions make life worth living or not? Increasing medical knowledge is praiseworthy. But the more we can do, the more cautious we need to be about what we do’.