If You Could Find Out All the Diseases Your Baby Might Ever Have, Would You?

October 10, 2013  |  
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The future is here. As it is, a simple blood test at birth can help doctors test for 30 rare childhood diseases. But soon, they’ll be able to tell you about almost any kind of health problem your child might face, even into adulthood. But what does that mean?

ABC spells it out perfectly:

Should parents be told only about childhood threats? Or would they also want to learn if their babies carried a key gene for, say, breast cancer after they’re grown? Could knowing about future risks alter how a family treats an otherwise healthy youngster? And how accurate is this technology — could it raise too many false alarms?

This is the newest frontier in the genetic revolution: how early to peek into someone’s DNA, and how to make use of this health forecast without causing needless worry.

As it stands, all babies born in the United States get their heel pricked for a blood sample. Being able to screen for problems saves thousands of infants each year, making it one of the most successful public health programs in the country. But the genome sequencing would reveal a lot more information. Parents can choose to sign up for local studies where their newborn’s blood would be used for genome sequencing.

Some say this is a time where ignorance may be bliss, at least for a time. The truth is, even if parents know all about their child’s future health problems, they won’t be able to prevent everything. And having a child is hard enough as it is without the added worry that in her 30s or 40s she may, say, develop breast cancer. It makes parenting less about enjoying the present moment.

Would you want to have all your baby’s genetic information up front?

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