DNA testing - would you do it?

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Some genetic testing on children is already done through routine newborn screening programs, where blood samples are examined for several diseases such as sickle cell and cystic fibrosis. But advances in genetic testing opens up the potential to identify many other diseases and the medical community is trying to determine how parents feel about it.

To find out, the National Poll on Children's Health and Knowledge Networks, Inc., conducted a national online survey in March 2007. They asked parents if they would be willing to have their child genetically tested to determine if he or she was at risk for a disease for which there is no treatment. 53 percent of respondents said they would. 39 percent said they would only do the testing if there were treatment options for that particular disease.

Why would a parent want to know their child had a chance of contracting a disease for which there is no treatment? According to lead researcher Beth A. Tarini, M.D., there are several reasons. "Some parents feel that even without a treatment, genetic testing will better prepare them to deal with their child's illness. Others may simply hope that testing may lead to the faster development of a cure," she says.

When asked if they would be willing to have their child's DNA stored in a government biobank in order to further research into the treatment and prevention of disease, slightly less than 40% said they would. Reluctance to participate in a DNA biobank is believed to be centered around fears of "genetic discrimination", which could possibly lead to difficulties in finding employment or securing health insurance. Currently, Congress is considering The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which would make such discrimination illegal.

So, what about you? Would you do it? Have you done it?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.