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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 04:50 GMT 05:50 UK
Genetic tests for newborns 'unlikely'
Concern has been raised about civil liberties
Genetic screening for all newborns is likely to be rejected by a government science watchdog, it is being reported.

The possibility of testing all babies was raised in a White Paper in June which promised 50m to expand the ability of the NHS to cope with genetic testing.

But the Human Genetics Commission is likely to say the move would be too expensive, unworkable and too much of a threat to civil liberties, according to the Financial Times.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC ,who chairs the commission, said claims for the medical benefits of unravelling the human genome had been exaggerated.

Sensitive information

She told the paper: "How can we give confidence to the public that their genetic information will be maintained with the right kind of safeguards?"

She expressed concern about information getting into the hands of employers.

Baroness Kennedy said the idea of knowing details about the likelihood of getting a disease based on genetics held "great attraction".

But she warned this information did not take into account the environment a child might be living in and other factors that might change the prognosis.

She said she did not believe the NHS was yet prepared to deal with the genetic information.

The government has begun to start thinking about putting everyone's DNA on an NHS database, said the paper.

Baroness Kennedy said the benefits of this were huge.

But there was the threat that information about people's genetic make-up - such as the likelihood of suffering a serious disease or mental instability - could fall into the wrong hands.

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