Genetic Screening Pros and Cons List

Genetic screening has been a source of debate for years now. It is often given a negative slant in speculative fiction, such as the movie Gattaca. One thing to keep in mind is that genetic screening is not the same thing as gene manipulation. It is important to not confuse those two issues so that the pros and cons of genetic screening can be weighed without introducing secondary considerations.

List of Pros of Genetic Screening

1. Prenatal Screenings
The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to have a child with a chromosomal disorder. Genetic screening can help predict whether the baby is likely to be born with Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome. Knowing that their child is at risk for a genetic disorder can affect decisions such as whether or not to have a home birth. It also prepares the doctors for possible complications during delivery. The longer a couple has to prepare for a special needs child, the more able they will be to provide the extra care required.

2. Non-Invasive
There are no risks associated with genetic screening. For prenatal screenings, a doctor simply has to draw the mother’s blood and do an ultrasound. The blood needs to be drawn twice, generally at 11-13 weeks and then again at 15-22 weeks. The ultrasound is usually done around 13 weeks. All of this can be done right at your regular doctor’s office. There is no risk at all to the baby. For other types of screenings, a blood test is all that is required.

3. Prevention
Genetic screenings may show that a person is predisposed towards a certain condition that has not yet developed. In some cases, there are steps that a person can take to ensure that this never becomes an issue. A change of habits such as not smoking, exercising more frequently, or improving your diet could be all that is needed to prevent this health issue from arising.

List of Cons of Genetic Screening

1. False Positives
Genetic screenings are not completely accurate. They return false positives 3-5% of the time. Keep in mind that genetic screenings never tell you whether or not you or your baby have any genetic disorders. They only calculate the chances of a disorder. So even if a screening accurately returns a high risk factor, the condition may never develop. This can cause a great deal of stress and worry for no reason.

2. Questionable Applications
Whether or not you choose to have a genetic screening, either for your unborn child or to determine your own genetic predispositions, is entirely up to you. But there is some debate about who should have access to this information. Insurance providers are the most hotly contested part of this debate. Should you have to pay higher premiums because you are at a higher risk for developing conditions that may never manifest themselves? Employers could also use this information when they are making hiring decisions.