Technology affects our lives in ways we never even thought possible, and one area that technology has really had an impact on is in the medical field. Today’s students who are studying to earn their health law degree are discussing all new ethical issues that weren’t even on the radar just 10 years ago. Parents-to-be are one group that is being affected by these advances and the ethical issues they are presenting.
Can a Baby in the Womb Consent to Giving a DNA Sample?
It’s a question that didn’t exist 10 years ago, but thanks to the advances in science it is now something parents-to-be, medical professionals, those in the legal field, and even students in health care law are now discussing. It is now possible for doctors to access and then analyze the entire genome of a baby while still in the womb. Not only can it be done, it takes just hours for the process to be completed.
This technology is being used to help diagnose possible genetic mutation, and to treat disease in a pre-emptive manner. While many people see this as a major step forward in science and the health of newborn babies, others are asking if it’s ethical to take a DNA sample of a newborn without the child’s consent.
The questions go further than that. They also ask who keeps the DNA sample/who owns it, what purposes can the information be used for, who can access that information, and should the parents receive payment for this collection.
At the same time, these tests are not 100%. The tests themselves have “limited predictive value”, which means they may not be able to provide all the information that is needed. For example, if a genetic mutation is detected, the test is unable to show the severity of the mutation.
Creating Artificial Wombs
For a woman who learns she is unable to conceive and carry a child, it can be heartbreaking, not just for her but also her partner. This is exactly why so much attention has been given to the area of infertility treatments and procedures. Science is taking it another step further by creating artificial wombs. This is an idea that is being discussed for those women who can’t carry a baby to term and would end up having a premature baby.
It sounds like some sort of futuristic movie when you think about a fetus being held in a machine filled with amniotic fluid that is meant to mimic the womb, but this isn’t science fiction – it is reality. The ethical questions are pretty clear in this case. Because this fetus would essentially be raised outside of the mother’s body, it may change how society views reproductive rights and the body of women.
Just the Beginning
As these conversations heat up and become more visible in the public domain, expect for more issues to arise. Science is propelling medical research at a faster pace than ever before, which is sure to raise all kinds of new issues in ethics, health policy laws, and human rights.