Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ethics of Genetic Testing on Fetuses

One of my facebook "friends," that I really don't know, posts a lot of anti-abortion crap, and even if something isn't anti-abortion she will post it with an anti-abortion twist.  The lastest is this news item, introduced with her editorial comment that "Hitler would be proud."

Babies could be tested for 3,500 genetic faults Scientists could soon be able to routinely screen unborn babies for thousands of genetic conditions, raising concerns the breakthrough could lead to more abortions.

A team has been able to predict the whole genetic code of a foetus by taking a blood sample from a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, and a swab of saliva from the father.

They believe that, in time, the test will become widely available, enabling doctors to screen unborn babies for some 3,500 genetic disorders.

At the moment the only genetic disorder routinely tested for on the NHS is Down’s syndrome.

This is a large-scale genetic defect caused by having an extra copy of a bundle of DNA, called a chromosome.

Other such faults are sometimes tested for, but usually only when there is a risk of inheriting them from a parent

By contrast, the scientists say their new test would identify far more conditions, caused by genetic errors.

However, they warned it raised “many ethical questions” because the results could be used as a basis for abortion.
These concerns were last night amplified by pro-life campaigners, who said widespread use of such a test would “inevitably lead to more abortions”.

Well, duh! That's kind of the point -- to prevent unnecessary suffering by aborting a fetus before it can feel pain or have sentience.  If a baby is going to suffer and die, how is it ethical to force it to be born?

I deleted most of my reply, and decided just to post just this much, because curiously this anti-abortion nutter never seems to post anything about taking care of living people:

Let's see some posts about orphan drugs, adoption agencies that specialize in disabled children & crack babies, charity hospitals, and programs that help families with non-medical expenses of caring for disabled children, and programs to help the older children of families with disabled children who have been basically abandonned by their parents' attention to a severely ill baby

Waiting...  So far there's been no spate of posts on these topics.  Apparently the anti-abortion network that sends links around to scare the Christian saps who are "pro-life" for fetuses doesn't send around links that deal with quality of life for the living.  One of the other responders to this post has a child with Down Syndrome.  She wrote:

We have a daughter born with Down Syndrome. Now read this part very very carefully.......I WOULD NOT CHANGE AN SINGLE SOLITARY THING...

Oh boo hoo.  How is Down Syndrome comparable to the other diseases a family would want to know about?  So I replied:

Nobody would force you to change a thing. But, you would force a family that had lost 4 children to Tay-Sachs disease to lose more children to it rather than aborting a child that's doomed to die. How ethical is that? Seems rather Fascist actually, since it doesn't leave the decision to the individual & family

I wonder what kind of Reality Show it would be if the Duggars had that gene.  Wouldn't that be a hoot?  Instead of Stepford children traveling the world we'd have a funeral a year and instead of nail-biting ultrasounds we'd have parents getting the bad news that their latest cooing baby is doomed to die.  Now that would be some good TV!

At the end of the article they mention schizophrenia & autism as being de novo DNA boo-boos, but they are also genetic disorders.  I've been reading up on schizophrenia & DNA lately (this book: The promise of whoever is touting this test is highly overblown.  It's as if they tried to whip up panic in the anti-abortion camp.  "In the [near?] future we'll be able to tell ifyour baby has the wrong color eyes!  Eugenics to the rescue!"

One of the posters at the original article claims that Stephen Hawking's accomplishments are proof that this test should  never be done and abortions should never be done for any disorder.  We atheists now should genuflect... [go ahead, I'll wait]  ... and think about how all of his findings in science would never have happened if he'd never have been born.


*sniff*  Pretend you don't know that every scientific discovery has had its genius and its also-rans who came to the same conclusions or virtually the same conclusions at about the same time because all of them read and studied the same things at the same time....   Just pretend...   Now imagine that of all the 7 billion people on the planet, nobody, NOT ONE ... is a genius scientist.

Now, imagine a family finding out that their baby would have a dread disease that would strike when that baby is in his 30s.... and imagine the family having an abortion because of that. 

Uh oh my brain just exploded.  How many people who want children would really do that?  Wouldn't most bet on science coming up with a cure or better treatment by the time the disease hits?

Now imagine a family that finds out their fetus won't survive to tern and their choice is between having an easy abortion now or digging out the stillborn fetus some way later (because a normal labor would be impossible) and that family actually choosing to wait until the fetus dies on its own.

Well, I believe in choice so I think it would be okay to allow them to make the more painful choice especially because they can be such great martyrs.  I bet it would be a real tear jerker to waddle up to the podium to tell people how their big belly is harboring a dying baby.  Hallelujah.  *sniff*

*sigh*  Fascists.  They only believe in choice when it's their choice.


L.Long said...

I love you being called a Nazi considering how he was a catlick.
Also as others have observed the Pro-life are not they are Pro-fetus.
To paraphrase the great and awesome Carlin--As a fetus you are all important, as a baby you're phucked!
And where is the ethical question on fetus testing??? What! if you go to a doc for an exam he cant tell you you have cancer cuz you may commit suicide??? The ethic question is a straw man and not valid.

LadyAtheist said...

Good point. Or should dentists refuse to fix my smile because I might become slutty?

ex-minister1 said...

Meanwhile jesus just sits and watches. Even though abortion was during his time, he said nothing. Nor did Paul. Paul thought hair length was a more critical issue.
Why don't they promote science that may ultimate fix these genetic defects? Every sperm is sacred. God gets quiet irate.

LadyAtheist said...

To be fair, Jesus didn't seem to know how babies are made ;-)

L.Long said...

And if you really look thru the buyBull you will find MANY MANY occurrences of out right abortions for no good reason, and even instructions on how to get an abortion. There is nothing in the buyBull against abortions and killing kids was not really any big thing (abraham anyone). All this anti-abortion crap is religidiots trying for control of women. Why? Cuz if tey tried controlling men they would find themselves being shot at!

Tommykey said...

"Hitler would be proud."

These people just can't seem to grasp that there is a huge difference between the leadership of a society making it public policy to eliminate the disabled because the disabled don't measure up to some perfect racial ideal and a pregnant woman who may be in a difficult life situation who has to come to the conclusion that she can't handle the burden of having a child who suffers from physical or mental handicaps at that particular point in her life.

ex-minister1 said...

L.Long, where does the bible give instructions on how to get get abortion? Inquiring minds want to know.

L.Long said...

For the it is...
The priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. ...
And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. -- Numbers 5:21-21, 27-28

Robert the Skeptic said...

The woman with the child that has Downs Syndrome, who claims she wouldn't change a thing! Well, that is the response society EXPECTS her to say. She has to accept things as they are, as they turned out, she has no choice.

But one has to wonder, if it were possible to go back in time - if she had a choice to have a child born with or without Downs... would she REALLY not change a thing?

LadyAtheist said...

It's kind of a classic cognitive dissonance case too: I have given up boatloads of time and energy and sacrificed a lot for this child so it must have been worth it.

I've known many women who have had abortions for various reasons and I only knew one who regretted it. She went on to have two more kids with her alcoholic husband, who beat the kids up. For some people, having kids is really about what they can do for them not what they can do for the kids. Being a self-righteous martyr is a pretty good side benefit of having a crippled kid. I wonder if Santorum would be willing to have more babies that won't live to be six years old.

L.Long said...

I would BET BIG MONEY that if testing was 100% accurate and Rick S's wife was with child and told it would be permanently disabled mentally he would have it cut out...all be it would be in secret.
My daughter almost had to make that choice but all turned out OK. But I encouraged her to do the abortion if the other tests verified the defects.
People get all uptight about fetuses, what for? They are easily replaced in 5 to 10 secs and waiting 9 mo.

LadyAtheist said...

The hype of this test is way overstated. Still, gross abnormalities would be known which would save a lot of heartache. In the "good old days" women would crank out a baby a year (assuming she didn't die) and the deformed babies would die - they wouldn't be sustained by modern medicine, so the whole "you're playing God" line is crap. Why does Santorum take his DNA-handicapped kid to the hospital every time she gets sick instead of watching her die?

Tommykey said...

Being a self-righteous martyr is a pretty good side benefit of having a crippled kid.

Sort of like a Munchausen by proxy syndrome.

B.R. said...

Abortion is the only humane option for deformed fetuses that will live short, painful, meaningless lives.

Or we can just parade them around to get pity. Hey, what's a Quiverfull to do??

LadyAtheist said...

I refuse to watch that stupid Duggar show but I have to wonder if they downplay the complications that 19th has had.

DNA can do some freaky shit. I would have liked to see them have a baby with hair all over its body or a tail.