NIPS, which was praised last week in a New England Journal of Medicine study for its reliability, safety and suitability for all pregnant women (Gènéthique press review on February 24th, 2014), is raising concerns amongst health care professionals and ethicists in terms of the medical, ethical and social consequences involved.
Ethicist Wesley J. Smith believes that NIPS will be used as "the last weapon in the eugenics arsenal". "A blood test to highlight problems would be excellent news in a world where all children are welcomed with unconditional love", he explained. But, although "the technology is neutral […] our hearts are not. Even though people with Down syndrome can be extremely affectionate, some people want to remove them from the surface of the earth by preventing them from being born. I fear that this test will push us in this direction", he continued.
These dramatic consequences for people with Down syndrome are only the start of an increasingly rigorous selection process to achieve the perfect child. In fact, the new non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test will not focus solely on Down syndrome but will also be extended to other conditions triggered by chromosome imbalance such as Patau Edwards syndrome. Ever mindful of the question of eugenics, ethicists and health care professionals fear that this type of genetic test might lead to "designer babies", with some parents initially opting for an abortion if their baby does not have certain genetic markers "deemed to be worthy".