Genetic Testing and the Prevention of Genetic Disease

Introduction

It is usually the hope of any parent that their children are in a position to enjoy a better life than them. Although parents may work hard to provide them with material needs, nevertheless there may be genetic diseases that could affect their children, thereby totally shattering the dreams and aspirations of these children with a possibility of even death (Dayal 2008). In such a scenario then, a majority of the parents, if only they had an option may very likely want to know whether or not their children are at risk of say, genetic diseases.

There are many issues of ethics that surround genetic testing, one of them being the parental choice role, as well as the manner in which such roles ought to be balanced to ensure that parents are at a position in which they are able to provide choices that impact on the health of their children (Dayal 2008), while at the same time also ensuring that these do not elicit a conflict with personal choices. In light of this, therefore, the issue of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) comes in. From an ethical point of view, would it be proper for a couple to decide whether or not their embryos shall undergo a PGD test to determine whether or not they are affected, and if so, destroy these, or should embryos be still regarded as a human life that is worth protecting?

Important case scenario considerations

The most important consideration of the case scenario provided is for the couple to prevent transmission of a genetic disease, in this case, Tay Sachs to their offspring, through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), as a form of genetic testing. Seeing that Tay Sachs is a genetic disease that is often half of the time passed on to the unborn child by two carrier parents, the LeBlanc’s are alive to the realization that since their first son, and who had been born through an in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique died due to this fatal genetic disease, they are therefore not ready to take any chance, and for this reason, they see the PGD test as their only saving grace.

As such, the PGD occupies center stage, as it would help the couple to determine whether or not their remaining embryos are affected. That is why the couple is not enthusiastic about trying another IVF procedure until they are sure that the child that would be born shall not be at risk of Tay Sachs.

Moral issues at stake

Morally, the LeBlanc’s feel obligated to ensure that they are not seen to pass on to their offspring a genetic disease that may later turn to be serious. It is worth considering the fact that already they have lost a son to Tay Sachs disease, barely past his third birthday. For this reason, the couple is careful to ensure that the remaining embryos undergo the PGD test.

If we were to compare a PGD test with a normal prenatal diagnosis, the main aim behind a prenatal diagnosis is to see to it that the child is not born with any kind of disability.

The idea here is not one of procuring an abortion but rather, to have the parent prepared for their child. On the other hand, though, this is not often the case with regard to PGD. Apparently, it does not make sense for a couple to undergo procedures of IVF only to end up implanting embryos that are affected. PGD does not just seek to let a couple know their embryo’s genetic nature (Dayal 2008). Rather, its definite purpose is to facilitate in an implanting exercise of embryos that are healthy, while at the same time also helping in discarding those embryos that appear as they shall eventually get affected.

Perhaps the question that we should be trying to ponder here is, if a wish for a couple, like in the case of the LeBlanc’s, wanting to avoid chances of getting a child with Tay Sachs, a genetic disease that cost them their first child, could be regarded as problematic from a moral perspective. If we were to argue this case scenario within the context of the rights of the disabled, then the decision by the LeBlanc’s to have their remaining embryos tested may be seen as being unacceptable.

The issue of discarding affected embryos following as PGD test may be seen as a form of human life destruction by those individuals who regard embryos as humans (Marick 2005).

On the other hand, there are those who do not support claims that indeed, human embryos are a symbol of human life and by extension, people. To these, destruction of affected embryos may be seen as a preventive measure of ensuring that the embryos to be implanted via an IVF technique are free of any genetic-related conditions, thereby ensuring that future offspring are not at a risk.

The ethical arguments of genetic testing and in this case, PGD tests, could be regarded as being extremely compelling, thus calling for strong considerations. Nevertheless, genetic testing focuses mainly on the child’s health, as well as its parents’ psychological health (Marick 2005).

For this reason, there is a need to consider a multitude of factors, such as how severe a certain disease may be, its age of onset, and the occurrence probability (Dayal 2008). In the case provided of the LeBlanc’s, the fact that Tay Sachs has already claimed the life of their son early in life is reason enough for them to warrant a PGD test. It may also be necessary to consider if at all there are other ways through which a couple could conceive a child, and at the same time also avoid this condition (Dayal 2008). In this case, the IVF procedure is the option for the LeBlanc’s, and they have a mind to avoid it, in case they discover that their child could be predisposed to Tay Sachs. Given that this is a genetic disease that is quite fatal, coupled with the fact that both the couple could be genetic carriers of it, it is not that hard to see that this couple has the best interest of their offspring at heart.

Conclusion

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a genetic diagnostic test that aids in the prevention of genetic diseases. However, the test is surrounded by moral issues, with a faction of people arguing that embryos are humans, and so they going not to be discarded in case they are discovered to be effected prior to an IVF implantation (Dayal 2008). On the other hand, they are those who support the test, arguing that this is a preventive measure that ensures that the children are protected from dangerous, perhaps fatal, genetic diseases.

The key consideration that comes out of this case is the couple trying to ensure that their future offspring are free of genetic disorders that they could transmit to them. There is also the issue of the extent to which parents may be seen to have the best interests of their child at heart; in as far as the making of the right decision regarding the test goes (Marick 2005). With this in mind, the LeBlanc’s in the case study provided, having already lost a son to Tay Sachs, a genetic disease, are ready to ensure that the remaining embryos are tested for a possible future child suffering from a similar condition.

References

Dayal, Molina. (2008). “Preimplantation genetic diagnosis” Web.

Marick, J. J. (2005). “Preimplantation genetic diagnosis”. Emedicine. Web.