Will Prenatal Screening for Serious Diseases Rob Us of Our Creativity?
David Goldstein has a commentary in this week’s issue of Nature on the potential impact of prenatal genetic screening on society (subscription required, unfortunately). The major issues it raises should be familiar to most readers: genetic technology is rapidly advancing our ability to detect genetic diseases before a child is born, either through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in cultured embryos, or through testing of a foetus in utero. In the latter case, as Goldstein notes, the technology is now available to detect almost any genetic disease mutation in a developing foetus by examining its DNA circulating in a pregnant mother’s blood. This raises the possibility of parents choosing their children based on virtually any imaginable genetically-determined trait, either through IVF or selective termination of pregnancies.
The commentary is certainly worth reading – if you happen to have Nature access – although it will be enraging for some. As others have already noted, Goldstein uses the commentary as a platform for propounding his views on the genetic basis of common diseases. However, as someone without a dog in the rare vs common variant fight, Goldstein’s insinuations here didn’t bother me too much. What did bug me is towards the end of the piece, when Goldstein brings out a tired claim about the potential dangers of prenatal screening: