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Can genetic tests predict your child`s future?

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Monday, July 28, 2008

So are there tests you should be getting for your child?

A genetic test at birth revealed Josie Heyman had sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that requires a lifetime of care. Her adoptive parents were given the chance to cancel the adoption but chose not to.

"We had fallen in love with her before we even met her," said Pam Heyman, Josie`s mother.

Josie underwent a second round of genetic testing to fine tune her medical care.

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"They started her right away on a regimen of antibiotics that she took every day until she was 5 years old," Andrew Heyman said.

"She could have been dead by now if it wasn`t for science," Pam Heyman said.

Until now, newborns in Washington state have been screened for 10 rare conditions. They include sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, congenital hypothyroidism, a thyroid deficiency, and phenylketonuria, an enzyme deficiency. All are treatable.

On July 21, 14 other rare genetic disorders were added to the newborn screen. The aim is simple.

"Could you do something earlier in the life of that child that might prevent damage before you would clinically diagnose that disease?" said Dr. Dough Diekema, Seattle Children`s Hospital.

Diekema is director of education at the Treuman Katz Center for pediatric bioethics.

He says some companies offer to predict hundreds of conditions for a fee. But the tests are far from foolproof, and could misdiagnose many children.

"The reality is that most of those for most of these tests will not truly have that condition," Diekema said.

But what about testing a child`s genetic risk of getting a disease like breast cancer in the future?

"If it`s the sort of thing that really doesn`t change anything medically that is going to be done for her until she`s over 18, it seems to me it should be her decision whether she gets tested or not," Diekema said.

When the Heymans adopted again, genetic tests helped them select Adam. They asked for a healthy baby, or else a baby with sickle cell disease.

"We had our one issue. We were good at that issue. We were going to stick to that issue," Pam Heyman said.

Twenty years from now experts say parents may be able to select embryos for behavioral traits and physical attractiveness. That would raise enormous new ethical questions.

Seattle Children`s Hospital is wrapping up a bio-ethics conference in Seattle today. Experts from all over were here to talk about the questions raised as the field of genetic testing evolves.

© 2008 KING-TV

Author: JEAN ENERSEN
Source: KING 5 News
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