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New test puts more babies at risk of lethal discrimination

5 January 2017


NIPT, which tests for Down's syndrome, is to be rolled out despite concerns of campaigners and the Down's syndrome community. 

A new blood test which can detect single-gene disorders in the first six weeks of pregnancy could be available within five years, reports the New Scientist.

The article says that the test would "enable prospective parents to choose whether to proceed with a pregnancy if conditions like muscular dystrophy or Huntington's disease". Single-gene disorders, which cause many inherited diseases such as sickle cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis, are collectively more common than Down's syndrome.

NIPT 

The test was developed by the same team that produced Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), which targets people with Down’s syndrome. The introduction of NIPT in the UK was fiercely opposed, including by the Don't Screen Us Out campaign, because of the long-term effect it will have on the Down's syndrome community, and because it promotes eugenics.

Eugenics

Andrew McLennan, a specialist in prenatal diagnosis at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, said "But this is not a negative eugenics campaign. This is about choice. It's about being given the opportunity to have information, to have appropriate counselling, and to make decisions. He also said the news of the test is "just sensational - I'm completely blown away.

Lethal discrimination

Dr Anthony McCarthy of SPUC said: "Currently, 92% of babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome are aborted. In Iceland, where screening has already been introduced, the figure is now 100%. This is clearly a form of prenatal 'quality-control'. To call a new test for genetic conditions 'sensational' is to endorse a development which will inevitably be used for eugenic purposes in the vast majority of cases. Lethal discrimination against disabled people has nothing to do with medicine and is never a morally good choice."

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