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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Texas Faith : Is knowing a fetus' entire genome taking medical knowledge too far?


How much information is enough? The New York Times
 reported last week that researchers have discovered that performing simple tests on parents can lead to an understanding of almost the entire genome of a fetus. By taking a blood sample from a pregnant woman and a saliva specimen from the father, experts can let parents know virtually all the DNA of a child before it is born.

As the Times reported, thousands of genetic diseases could be detected. In the not-so-distant future, parents could pay an affordable price to get that information, too.

But this breakthrough also raises complicated ethical issues. On the one hand, parents could be more ready for the challenges that await them. Yet will this lead to more abortions, including of children whose parents don't like the DNA profile?

Undoubtedly, we all like information. But you could argue the creation story in Genesis shows the risks that come in acquiring knowledge.

Texas Faith is a weekly column at Dallas Morning News managed by Editors William McKenzie and Wayne Slater, and the material is contributed by several panelists including Mike Ghouse, For all the other responses visit:

Is this one of those instances? Is this discovery taking medical knowledge too far?

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

We have come a long way in accepting things we would not have accepted each previous decade or a century. Whether it is ethics, morality, civility, religion, science or medical knowledge, we have accepted the new information despite the initial resistance.

There was a time, when saving a life was considered evil, it was considered against the will of God, and we battle that even today. In 2010, 70 children died in Zimbabwe, because of the religious opposition to vaccination. The religious tolerance organization reports that an average of one sick child a month dies in the United States from denied medical attention.

Discovering medical knowledge is not going too far. It is indeed beneficent in living a better life. The problem is not with the knowledge; but with the abuse of it, which will always be there as a part of the whole. We should not resist new research for the fear of its abuse. Let the benefits to society at large determine our research and not the abuse.

We might consider a requirement of ethical dimension and abuse prevention in the research proposals before they are submitted and funded.

Nuclear power in the right hands is a blessing, but a hell in the hands of evil men. Religion in the right hearts is a mercy to mankind, but a hell for others in the wrong hands. Evil men are not a separate group; they are among us, within each one of the faiths, races, and nationalities. As a society, we have to prevent abuse, but must welcome research.

Abuse of sonograms is a big story in India. The Guardian reports 6 million girl abortions in the last decade in India, reconfirmed by ABC news i.e., aborting 50,000 female babies a month. The good news is there is a strong movement to stop this and laws are being passed.

The following three paragraphs are an addition in my blog to highlight Indian situation.

Abuse of Sonogram is a big story in India. In its first show, called Satyamev Jayate (truth ultimately triumphs), in May this year, it featured female feticide. The show has turned India upside down and new laws are being passed to prevent the abuse.  A salesman sells the sonogram machine to the Doctors as an investment that will return their capital in six months, and unchecked income continues after that by performing abortions - not male babies but female babies.  Guardian reports 6 million girl abortions in the last decade in India, reconfirmed by ABC news i.e., aborting 50,000 female babies a month.

In the sting operation, one doctor asks; if the baby does not die thru aborticides, what should be done, the other says, throw it in the river when it comes out. Yes, it is disgusting and heart wrenching to watch. This, one particular evil has led to disproportionate ratio of men and women to a point of sharing the wife with brothers and friends or selling one’s wife to the highest bidder.
The good news is that the prophecy of Krishna is relevant, in Bhagvad Gita IV-7 Krishna narrates to Arjuna: “Whenever Dharma, or the situation of law and order, is endangered on this world, I incarnate onto this world to re establish Dharma, law and order, and to protect good and destroy the evil elements of the society.” The movie actor Aamir Khan is indeed an incarnation of Krishna in mitigating the evil of female feticide, dowry, child abuse, and other evils of the Indian society.

Unless we discuss the ethics of what parents can or cannot do with the knowledge of a DNA child before it is born, we will never be able to deal with it. With the new knowledge of a difficult DNA child, we will also develop techniques in re-aligning a few, if not all of the defects. We must not withhold the good from those who benefit from the DNA research.

A Doctor friend of mine is teaching stem cell research in Australian and European Universities, and sees the value of the research in terms of improved quality of life for many, in the United States we are still struggling with it. I'd rather struggle and place things in order before we embark on it. It is the American way; infrastructure first. 

We have dealt with Dr. Kevorkian, Terry Schiavo and many other ethical issues and we will continue to do with resistance. We are indeed better off today, living a little better and little longer due to the research in medicine.

MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairsIslamIndiaIsrael, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.

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