Avoid the Blame Game

Do you have your mother’s eyes or your father’s chin? Sometimes it’s obvious where inherited traits come from. For others, a new technique promises to let scientists see whether particular parts of DNA come from mom or dad.

The new sequencing method, called HaploSeq, comes from Bing Ren and other scientists at the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine. They and others hope HaploSeq can help solve mysteries behind a multitude of diseases. That’s a good thing.

What would be bad is if people start using the information in the wrong way. It’s awful enough to think of any child getting sick with a serious disease. It would be worse if parents start blaming each other about who passed along the guilty gene sequence.

This doesn’t mean the research shouldn’t proceed. The more we learn about inheritable diseases, the better the chances are that we can develop treatments or prevent them.

Nonetheless, the development underscores the ongoing need to weigh the ethical consequences of scientific research. It’s not enough to figure out whether certain genes came from mom or dad. Ideally, we’ll find a way to use that information to help whoever has those genes. And we’ll also help mom and dad—and the rest of the family—deal with the news in a way that helps everyone find a healthier, happier outcome.

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