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Watchdog set to reject genetic screening

FT.com reports that the UK government’s proposal to genetically screen all newborn babies and store the information in a database is likely to be rejected by the Human Genetics Commission, the watchdog set up by Labour in 1999 to monitor advances in biotechnology, on the grounds of being unworkable, expensive and potentially threatening to civil liberties.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the head of the HGC, said the medical benefits of the Human Genome had been over-hyped, leading to unrealistic expectations and the threat of discrimination against people who carried certain genes.

It is one of those things that initially has great attraction: The idea that you might be able, at the begining of your life, to know so much about yourself that you can pretty much chart your life appropriately, make sure that you have twice the normal helping of spinach and therefore throw off the chance of getting a disease. But it does not take account of where a child might be living, what it might be susceptible to because of its environment, and all the other factors that interact with your genes and change the prognosis.

The proposal to test all babies was announced in a White Paper published in June. It promised £50m ($80.4m) to expand the ability of the National Health Service to cope with the rapid advance in genetic testing.

1 comment to Watchdog set to reject genetic screening

  • The logical next step – technology allowing – will be to implant sub-dermal data chips in neonates for the purposes of tracking. Any measure, no matter how absurdly Orwellian, will be thinkable so long as an argument, no matter how specious, can be made for it enhancing ‘public safety’ – in this futuristic case, the public safety ‘benefit’ being: if we know where you are at all times we can fight crime, provide medical assistance, deal with illegal immigrants etc.

    Predicting the future is easy: just follow through logically the implications of the statement “I am my brother’s keeper.” It’s all there.