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N° 120 :

Opinion

Recent developments in human genetics raise major ethical issues which have not failed to attract the attention of the National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences (CCNE) on numerous occasions. These developments have included genetic fingerprinting, genetic testing in adult medicine, prenatal or preimplantation diagnosis and neonatal screening.

                Whilst in the process of a review of ethical issues raised by the medical and societal use of high throughput human DNA sequencing techniques, CCNE received a referral from the French Ministry of Health’s Direction Générale de la Santé (DGS) stating that: “...it is now possible to detect detailed foetal genetic variations using foetal genome sequencing combined with statistical and biological data processing techniques. The scientific community can now look forward to needing only a single non invasive assay to perform foetal genome sequencing and identify several thousand genetic conditions.  Such biotechnological developments add fuel to concerns regarding the potential for eugenicist tendencies.”   Against this background, the DGS requested from CCNE “an in-depth reflection and an opinion on the ethical issues and the problems raised by the development of the technique for prenatal diagnosis of foetal genetic abnormalities based only on a sample of a pregnant woman’s blood.”