The Ethics of Decoding the Genome of the Unborn

Many people are hailing the recent report from a group of scientists at the University of Washington.  They discovered a way to accurately determine the genome of an unborn baby without any invasive testing.

When a woman is pregnant, 10% of her blood contains the DNA of the baby.  Knowing this, the scientists took blood samples from pregnant moms around eighteen weeks into the pregnancy and ran a complete genome test on it.  They also took saliva samples from the father and ran a genome test on him.  Combining the two tests, they mapped out the genome of the unborn baby.

To test the accuracy of their results, they obtained cord blood from the birth and ran a genome test on it.  They claimed that their tests showed a relatively high degree of accuracy in using this test to identify the genome of the unborn baby without harming it in any way.

According to the researchers, the tests could accurately identify more than 3,000 genetic disorders.

On the positive side there are some of these genetic disorders that could actually be treated before the baby is born and others that could start the treatment immediately after birth.  By knowing about the disorder before the birth, it would also help prepare the parents for what to expect once the baby is born.

However, there is a very negative side to the test and that is it will lead some parents to abort their baby based upon the information gathered from the genetic test.  This adds a moral dilemma to the tests that could in fact lead to the deaths of thousands of unborn children.

To add to this moral dilemma is the fact that the researchers used their test to look for rare genetic disorders such as Turner’s and Down’s syndromes.  Their test identified 39 of 44 de novo mutations, however, they also identified several million others that did not actually exist.  This huge error factor could lead some parents to abort healthy babies based on flawed information.

It’s bad enough to murder unborn children, but to do so based on wrong information just compounds the moral dilemma.   I would highly advise anyone considering have any type of genetic tests run on their unborn children to ask themselves why they are doing it and if they are willing to live with the consequences of their decisions.  I also want to remind them of what David wrote in Psalm 139:14:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.