The use of genetic tests for newborns could raise bioethical objections

Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, stated in 2014 that, in the coming decades, cheap and efficient DNA technology will lead to every baby’s genome being sequenced with the use of genetic tests, and that information will be used to carry out personalized strategies for the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases.

However, according to a report from the Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institute, the use of genetic tests for newborns could raise ethical objections.

As the report states, genetic sequencing can be used for two reasons, to diagnose sick children and to screen the ones who appear to be healthy. They also distinguish between three contexts in which sequencing for diagnosis or screening could be implemented: in clinical medicine, in public health programs, and as a direct-to-consumer service.

Risk of a universal genetic test in newborns

According to an article published in The Lancet, health professionals should discourage sequencing of newborns because current knowledge does not justify universal newborn screening using genomic sequencing. A recommendation supported by bioethics groups in Europe and the United Kingdom, which consider that there are important unresolved scientific and ethical concerns about the use of genomic technologies.

Given the great potential to improve health care, particularly in personalized medicine, and its increasingly frequent use in medical and non-medical contexts, it is crucial to develop worldwide research to better understand the scientific complexities and uncertainties in the sequencing of newborns.

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