I read an interesting article at Slate today about the testing of embryos for the breast cancer gene in the U.K. What looks on the face of it like a great tool for early disease detection raises the possiblity of leasing to parents be blamed for "causing" a child to develop problems later in life.
Read the whole article, but here's a taste:
Before this kind of embryo test (known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD), parents weren't held responsible for a bad roll of the genetic dice. If you had a 50 percent chance of passing along a disease, and your child got it, that was a tragedy, not your fault. But with the advent of PGD, the equation has changed. Now you can eliminate your risk of transmitting the bad gene—and if you don't take that precaution, you're "inflicting" the consequences. In this way, today's embryo-screening option becomes tomorrow's obligation.
At some point this type of testing will be widely available. But it won't be cheap. How will this affect us long term? Will people be less likely to have kids if they can't afford the testing? Will kids who grow up to develop cancer be able to sue their parents? What am I saying? Of course they will. Lawyers will make sure of that.