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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
DNA profiling of babies rejected
Test tubes
DNA mapping for new-borns is a controversial issue
Proposals for a national scheme to take DNA profiles of every baby born in the UK have been rejected by genetics experts.

The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) and the National Screening Committee had been asked to assess the pros and cons of a baby profiling scheme.

They concluded it would not be cost effective, and posed ethical problems.

Supporters of baby profiling say it could help to predict the likelihood of developing diseases in later life.

We have concluded that there are important ethical, legal and social barriers to genetic profiling of this kind
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
It its report to ministers, the HCG recommended that the issue be re-examined in five years.

It said at present it was not likely to be publicly affordable - but developing technology should eventually bring costs down.

Should a national scheme go ahead, then vigorous safeguards would be needed to protect confidentiality, and minimise the risk of discrimination, the HCG said.

However, it said it would be very difficult to ensure that information would not be misused.

There were also concerns about if and how a child would be informed if found to be at risk of disease.

Possible benefits

The HGC accepted that baby profiling could offer possible benefits, such as enabling doctors to plan medical treatment in advance, and to advise those at risk how best to modify their lifestyles.

There could also be more accurate targeting of drugs for people with genetic disorders.

But it warned that the link between genetics and health outcomes was not always clear - and called for more research into the issue.

It also warned that regulation might be needed in the rapidly developing commercial sector, where organisations were beginning to consider offering genetic profiling on an individual basis.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, HCG chairwoman, said: "We have concluded that there are important ethical, legal and social barriers to genetic profiling of this kind, although there could be medical advantages in the future.

"It is important that research continues in order to establish how far profiling could be clinically useful, and it is critical that developments are kept under review.

"Specifically, we are recommending to government that the entire topic should be revisited in five years, when technologies will have moved on and the prospect of this becoming a reality is closer."

Health Minister Lord Warner said: "The report covers many complex issues which we will need time to consider carefully."

DNA mapping for new-borns debated
11 May 04 |  Bristol/Somerset
Concern over genetic test revolution
24 Oct 02 |  Science/Nature

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