Expert on gene test: Baby designing a real risk


(CBS News) Parents designing babies is "a real risk" in the wake of new research that's given scientists the ability to map the genetic code of a fetus, according to Dr. Eric Schadt, chairman of the Genetics Department at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center.

He said the test that requires only a blood sample from the mother and saliva from the father to diagnose more than 3,000 genetic disorders before a baby is born is a positive thing, but brings up many ethical and social questions that need to be discussed prior to the test's use, such as the potential for abortion for a variety of reasons following the test.

Schadt said on "CBS This Morning" that the test, utilized in a University of Washington study, will be available for wide use in five years or more. Until then, he said, it needs to be talked about extensively.

Researchers sequence fetus' entire genome from mom's blood and dad's saliva

He explained, "As we go through, how do we adapt to that kind of testing, the social implications; what sorts of policies should we be thinking about? Those are the discussions we should be having right now about how to leverage this information in ways that are benefiting humankind, not biasing the type of population through unnatural selection of traits."

Schadt said education of the general population and lawmakers on what's coming is needed to prevent what he called an "extreme designer baby mentality."

When asked if new laws are needed to avoid designing babies on traits not based on health, Schadt said, "It's not unlike choosing to terminate a pregnancy based on the sex of the child. Those are the sorts of things we want to avoid."

For more with Schadt on the test, watch the video in the player above.