The future health of a child could soon be known through the heel-prick blood test a baby receives as a newborn – prompting the question of ‘how much do we want to know?’
The blood test – which has been done on babies within days of birth for 50 years – could one day have the potential to detect health conditions the child is likely to develop as it reaches middle age because genome technology is becoming cheaper.
But ethics come into play with health experts saying Australians will need to decide what is acceptable to know at birth.
Dr James Pitt, head of newborn and metabolic screening at the Victorian Clinical Genetics Service, says the ethical issue of screening for something that may not be apparent until adulthood needs to be discussed.
“Currently the screening is focused on picking up serious childhood conditions that are going to be present in the first year or two of life, where we have good treatments,” he tells the Herald Sun. “The whole ethical issue… is one the community needs to discuss.”
The Victorian heel-prick service, based at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, tests the health of 220 Victorian babies each day. Experts will discuss the genetic testing potential of the test at a conference in Melbourne this month.
(via Herald Sun)