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New Prenatal Blood Tests Developed At Stanford Can Check Fetal DNA, Raising Ethical Questions

Publication Date: 
September 10, 2011
San Jose Mercury News
Lisa M. Krieger

Professor Hank Greely is quoted by Lisa M. Krieger of the San Jose Mercury News on how a new blood test, which can detect whether a newly pregnant woman is carrying a child with Down syndrome, could lead to a "greater reduction in the number of children born with genetic disease."

Soon a simple blood test will be able to tell newly pregnant women if they are carrying a child with Down syndrome -- raising the prospect, and perhaps peril, of a world with fewer imperfections.

Based on fast-moving DNA science, one test is likely to be available by late fall; a second is due out early next spring. While screening tools already exist, the new blood tests will provide an easier and earlier way to help us decide the delicate question of what kind of babies we want.

"The implications are enormous," said Stanford University law professor Hank Greely, who studies the legal and ethical implications of emerging technologies.

"It could lead to a greater reduction in the number of children born with genetic disease," if proven accurate, affordable and then improved to detect hundreds of other congenital disorders, Greely predicts.