Genetic Screening and Gene Therapy: A Technological or Ethical Revolution?

At least one child in ten is born with some type of inherited abnormality. Modern medicine has developed methods to detect abnormal genes in these children and even in normal people who are carriers. Clinical experiments are underway to try to change the abnormal genes back to normal ones. These fascinating technical accomplishments are already having an impact on human health. At the same time, they raise some troubling ethical issues. Parents and doctors must ask themselves to what extent should they make use of current technologies to determine the characteristics of a newborn child. Society and government must also decide whether limitations should be put on new technologies.

As a pediatrician, scientist, and medical administrator, Dr. Edward McCabe is uniquely qualified to address this topic. With both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, he is president of the American Board of Medical Genetics, an expert on newborn genetic screening, a leading researcher on human inherited diseases, and is chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. McCabe has testified at many governmental agency hearings and is called on frequently to speak to audiences with both medical and nonmedical backgrounds.