A BABY genetically screened to be breast cancer free is due to be born within days. In what is believed to be the first publicised case in the world, a British couple underwent pre-implantation genetic testing to free their children from the disease.
At the same time, IVF Australia has announced it will start the genetic testing for the aggressive breast cancer gene BRACA 1 next year. Testing for the breast cancer gene has been available in Australia for about five years. Pre-implantation genetic testing is already used to screen for hereditary diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
The British couple, are one of two in the UK who have publicly decided to undergo the test after their families had been afflicted with breast cancer. Without screening, any daughter of the couples would have an 80 per cent chance of developing the fast-spreading form of breast cancer.
Genetic testing involves using IVF to create a selection of embryos. Scientists then select the ones without the rogue gene and implant them in the woman. The embryos with the rogue gene are destroyed.
Another couple, known as Matthew and Helen, have also undergone the screening to try to eradicate the hereditary breast cancer gene. "I've lived much of my life with cancer and death, and fear that I might have to face it and might pass on the risk to my children," Helen said. "This gives us the chance to make sure our daughters won't have the same experience."
Notice the language used in the first paragraph “genetic testing to free their children from the disease..” No one is set free from the disease, those who have the genetic disposition towards breast cancer are destroyed before they even have a chance to get the disease. The embryos who don't have the rogue gene are not set free from the disease either, they never had the gene in the first place.
Keep in mind that the embryos they find defective don't always develop breast cancer later in life. They only have a gene that pre disposes them to get breast cancer. In 40 to 50 years time when these children have grown up there may well be a cure for breast cancer.
While parents are trying to avoid giving birth to children that have a potential breast cancer risk, the very method they are using (IVF) is reported to actually increase the risk of birth defects.
Isn't it better to have lived with the possibility of catching the disease than to have died hours or days after your own conception.? We are all going to die of something anyway. Should doctors and parents command so much power as to decide which child lives and which one dies? What do you think?
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