Everyone who wants to have a baby in the Netherlands should be able to go through a screening process to find out if they carry rare genetic diseases, the Dutch health council Gezondheidsraad said on Wednesday.
Screening is currently only free for people who know they have a raised risk of being a carrier, couples with close family relationships, and people from specific ethnic or geographic backgrounds.
In the Netherlands, for example, a number of hereditary conditions are more common in Volendam than in the rest of the country because of close community ties. People living on the former fishing island of Urk are also more prone to a bone disease known as Van Buchem.
The health council says children have a 25% chance of inheriting a genetic disease if both biological parents are carriers although just one in 100 couples are in this position.
Many people do not know they are carriers because they have no symptoms. The health council says pre-conception screening should be available for everyone and several hundred couples will then be in a better position to decide whether or not to have children.
To avoid potential pressure on parents “the framework stipulates that screening must always target severe disorders, preventing the pursuit of ‘designer babies’ by screening for increasingly milder disorders,” the council said. In addition, participation will always be voluntary.
The aim is not to prevent the birth of children with serious illnesses but to allow parents to make an informed choice, the council said. This means parents could either press ahead with a pregnancy or opt for a donor.
The council is recommending the health ministry set up a pilot project to assess the best way to reach potential parents. One way of doing this would be to offer the testing to parents who consult their family doctor before getting pregnant.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation