Minimising genetic errors

A very touching story of two parents, James and Georgie Melville-Ross, who have twins with cerebral palsy, appears in today’s Sunday Times. The children require almost constant care and will remain in this condition for as long as they live.

They were conceived when, after years of trying, Georgie finally had IVF treatment and they were born prematurely. Because twinning in the womb takes place within a fortnight of fertilization then the likelihood is — not mentioned in the ST account — that both twins inherited a pair of similar recessive sub-par genes which, as single genes in each parent would have been unnoticed and, indeed, had no effect.

Births similar to these place almost impossible burdens on parents and it would be impossible, once the bonds of love have formed, to suggest to them that these children should be gently put to sleep. But the equivalent of this used to happen in the case of hunter-gatherer man.  The culling of any handicapped child. Such cannot be done now because the Christian culture, which believes that all living humans have a soul.  It is still very powerful and will pervade society for, probably at least one or two hundreds of years yet. .

But it won’t be long before complete DNA sequencing will be available for a modest fee. Starting with the more intelligent of adolescent girls, it is highly likely that the practice of having one’s DNA sequenced will become standard practice and they will also insist that their boy friends are, too.

Any possibility of the cross-matching of any of the more serious 5,000 or so serious genetic handicaps can be avoided before tragedies such as the Melville-Rosses can be avoided, or at least minimised at a stage very early in an affectionate relationship. My guess is that this will become widespread in the advanced countries within the next 20 years.

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