Vidya Ghose was 39 when she conceived her daughter Anamika, a naughty-as-they-come girl who is soon going to turn seven. Because she'd had three miscarriages earlier, her doctor recommended that she undertake genetic testing. The results showed that her unborn baby might have Down's syndrome.
Now Vidya and Shekhar had two options: take the risk or terminate the pregnancy. They chose to go ahead with the pregnancy.
According to the couple, the testing helped them prepare for their child's possible condition, both mentally as well as physically. "When Anamika finally arrived, we knew what we'd need to cater to her special needs unlike a lot of other parents," Vidya says.
Genetic testing, also known as DNA-based testing, is undertaken by many parents to equip themselves better for the special needs of their child. While the process has its advantages, it has also given rise to many debates on moral and accuracy levels.
Genetic testing is advised to couples who have a family history of genetic diseases, have had children born with genetic problems, and those that have gone through more than one miscarriage in the past. Genetic testing is also recommended to women who conceive after the age of 35 because there is a risk of their children developing genetic disorders.
• Like Vidya and Shekhar, sometimes parents go through this screening test not to abort the foetus, but to be prepared to take care of their child, in case they conceive a child with genetic abnormalities. The testing is then followed by a counselling session, which helps them get a grip of the situation and deal with it in a better manner.
• Some genetic problems of the unborn baby can be rectified even before the baby enters the world – in the mother's womb itself. In other cases, knowing which disease it may suffer from, the doctors can get time to prepare and conduct a surgery if necessary as soon as the baby is born.
• If a couple is not ready or does not want to bring a child with genetic abnormalities in this world, then they have the choice of terminating the pregnancy.
• Many people and even health practitioners condemn genetic testing on moral grounds. They believe that terminating a baby just because there is a chance of developing a genetic disorder is morally wrong.
• Many experts question the accuracy of these tests. They believe that the tests might show the foetus carrying a mutation, but that doesn't give a certainty that the baby will be born with that abnormality.
Tell us your view on this issue. Do you think a panel of health practitioners discussing about this will bring a fair amount of clarity? Let us know so that we can work towards this issue together.