Genetic Testing

Prenatal test results for rare genetic anomalies often wrong, perfectly healthy unborn babies aborted

By Dave Andrusko

I’d wager a pretty penny that the New York Times thought long and hard about publishing “When They Warn of Rare Disorders, These Prenatal Tests Are Usually Wrong.” As pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith wrote, “Prenatal-testing companies are making a lot of money selling early-gestation, prenatal blood tests that search for rare genetic conditions beyond Down syndrome. Moreover, their test results are often wrong.”

First example, Ms. Yael Geller who was told her “prenatal blood test indicated her fetus might be missing part of a chromosome, which could lead to serious ailments and mental illness.” Fortunately, she had another test taken and “now has a 6-month-old, Emmanuel, who shows no signs of the condition he screened positive for.”

Sarah Kliff and Aatish Bhatia  were blunt in their conclusion: “Ms. Geller whose baby had been misled by a wondrous promise that Silicon Valley has made to expectant mothers: that a few vials of their blood, drawn in the first trimester, can allow companies to detect serious developmental problems in the DNA of the fetus with  with remarkable accuracy.

That includes the screening that came back positive for Ms. Geller’s son–for Prader-Willi syndrome, “a condition that offers little chance of living independently as an adult. Studies have found its positive results are incorrect more than 90 percent of the time.”

But Kliff and Bhatia  found that “Nonetheless, on product brochures and test result sheets, companies describe the tests to pregnant women and their doctors as near certain. They advertise their findings as ‘reliable’ and ‘highly accurate,’ offering ‘total confidence’ and ‘peace of mind’ for patients who want to know as much as possible.” Their very lengthy analysis shows the record of inaccuracies has not slowed down the rush to promote sales.

National Review Online’s Alexandra DeSanctis put it succinctly:

In a culture where abortion is the quick and easy “solution” for a baby who is deemed unfit or less than normal and therefore unwanted, how much more seriously should we take this report from the Times, which suggests that doctors are wrong far more often than not when diagnosing a serious fetal disorder?

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