Needless to say, the most significant impact of applied genetics on the society is through genetic testing. Where these genetic tests were devised do as to detect or seek information pertaining to genetic constitution, it is being misused to kill the female foetus.
Genetic testing: This boon of medical science was developed with the idea in mind, to derive information pertaining to genetic feature. These could mean any disease causing mutation, the DNA information so as to detect Down syndrome or Tay-Sachs disease. Genetic testing is simply a procedure for testing the status of the DNA and RNA. Chromosomes may be studied for gaining knowledge that is valuable for research. It has been broadly divided into 4 categories:
-prenatal tests performed on the foetus during pregnancy.
-neonatal screening done right after the birth or screening for the progeny career of married couples which is termed as carrier screening.
-testing for detection of diseases before the occurrences of symptoms.
-assessment of the genetic structure for detecting the vulnerability to develop complex diseases.
1. The positive benefits: These include prenatal testing so as to avoid chances of risk owing to a monogenic disease or in circumstances where a risk of chromosomal malfunctioning is witnessed. Down syndrome can be effectively prevented my means of genetic testing. The conditions to an effective prenatal testing are the will of the parents to terminate the pregnancy on account of an unfavorable
outcome. For couples with a genetically defective baby, genetic testing is a beneficial technology as it helps them to take proper caution and care before giving birth to their next issue. Neonatal screening is a means to test the new born baby to detect presence of genetic disorders such as Phenylketonuria or genetic anaemia. For instance, the babies if supplied with a phenylalanine diet for a few years after birth can successfully overcome the chances of mental retardation as a result of Phenylketonuria. Hence it is a positive way of handling genetic information.
The benefits of genetic testing to avoid genetic disorders are many and they outweigh the adverse situations. When a couple decides to get married, carrier screening is employed so as to detect if their offspring shall be in considerable risk of a genetic disorder. Genetic testing helps to test for late on setting diseases much before the symptoms are seen. For example, Huntington’s disease, familial colon cancer, familial Alzheimer’s, familial breast cancer etcetera. Possible treatment may be taken so as to prevent or minimize the effects of the disease that can lead to a crippling life in the future. Advanced technologies such as Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, however controversial can go a long way in terminating the defective embryos. In scenarios with probability of sex linked disorders, the sex of the baby may be chosen by the parents so as to curb the probability of developing of the complex diseases that are a result of genetic imbalances. This however has controversial ideas attached to it and can lead to severe consequences if not done with proper planning and care.
2. The negative impact: The term genetic testing brings to mind the horrifying truth about female foeticide. The alarming rate at which the female foetus is being identified in the womb and being destroyed for want of a male child is indeed blood-curdling. In a society where women have given ample proof of being as competent as men, why choose between your own children? What is meant for aborting defective embryos if used to manipulate the life span of a healthy foetus is a punishable crime. Determining the sex of the baby is a means to detect and counteract sex-linked syndromes. Instead it is being used to abort the foetuses that are to give birth to a female such. Such is the prejudice against the female babies.
Lastly, one must remember that unless dire need is faced, these tests should not be opted for. Often the person tested may have to confront dire consequences leading to psychological distress. For parents taking the test, utmost care must be ensured. The right to derive information about one’s health should be coupled with the right to keep this information private. With genetic testing the right to secrecy should not be violated at any step. The scope of aborting a baby showing signs of a complex genetic disease may lead to skeptical criticisms and controversies. The pain of bearing a child with mental retardation is indeed traumatic. Prenatal testing does involve a significant risk of miscarriages. Hence opting for these modes of genetic analysis should be accompanied by previous thorough research and background knowledge of the pros and cons. Some ethic and orthodox groups are still against the positive benefits of genetic testing to minimize the scope of complex genetic disorders owing to the skeptical opinions it is associated with. The genetic information pertaining to the gender of the baby must not be misused as it has severe legal implications besides being morally as well as ethically incorrect. The questions arise from most corners. Should a child be aborted if it shows traces for genetic disorders or should the child be given birth to, hoping for new treatment strategies to be discovered in the future? Should a mother be given the sole right to abort a child? Should parents be let to choose the sex of the offspring? The questions are left unanswered.