New genetic technology asks hard life and death questions


An extract of Most Rev Anthony's Fisher OP's new book 'Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium' was published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday 28 January.

We naturally rejoice in the extraordinary achievement of the human genome project and other research, which has contributed so much to our understanding of the human condition and which is so pregnant with therapeutic possibilities.

The big problem is that for the foreseeable future the principal use of this technology will not be therapeutic at all. Alongside ultrasound and other procedures, genetic technology will be used for testing the unborn, and where diagnosed as carrying some disease or other unwanted characteristic the child will routinely be "terminated".

Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, diabetes, asthma: where will the list of conditions or "defects" end? A 1993 American poll found that 11 per cent of couples would abort a foetus with a predisposition to obesity. More recently, it has been suggested that autism could be detected prenatally and affected babies eliminated. In India and China widespread antenatal testing followed by abortion for female babies, combined with infanticide for girls who make it to birth, has resulted in serious sex imbalances and millions of "missing women".

The unasked question is: who decides which genetic qualities warrant death, before or after birth, on what basis and in whose interests?

Continue reading this extract at The Australian


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