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Will genome testing of healthy babies save lives?

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 11 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6449
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Matt Hancock has backed genome testing for healthy newborn babies, but how sound are his claims? Elisabeth Mahase reports

What’s the claim?

The media have reported that the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, and Genomics England are looking to launch a pilot next year in which parents will be asked whether they want their babies’ genomes tested to identify inherited diseases and whether they are at high risk of developing certain conditions later in life.12 Genomics England’s chief executive, Chris Wigley, said he hoped that around 20 000 parents would take up the offer.

Hancock then took to Twitter to share the Times’s article about the plan, saying, “This is brilliant news—just imagine how many lives can be saved when we know the genetic risks we face.”3

Will screening healthy babies save lives?

David Curtis, honorary professor at University College London’s Genetics Institute, thinks not. He told The BMJ that Hancock’s claim that the tests would be “life saving” was “extremely misleading.”

He said, “It’s difficult to think of any circumstances …

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