Moderator: John Hockenberry, Correspondent, Dateline NBC
Every expectant parent wants a healthy baby, and new tests enable doctors to detect genetic abnormalities in the fetus. But if prenatal testing finds such a genetic marker in your baby, what do you do? The nature of the test results can leave parents with bewildering choices. John Hockenberry describes a scenario in which an expectant couple learns that their baby has a small risk of being born with very serious defects, and the panelists explore the often excruciating decisions—even gambles—that prenatal genetic testing can force parents to make. Where can they turn for guidance? While genetic information is increasing, genetic counselors are in short supply. The program also considers the flip side of the equation—how far should we go in making better babies? Should doctors agree to test embryos for special talents or qualities? What about people who can't afford such options? If society were to accept the idea of selecting genetic traits in the unborn, what would be the consequences for people with disabilities? Is this new technology compelling society to reconsider the definition of a healthy life and constructive member of society?
In examining the thorny issues of selecting our children's genes, Making Better Babies illuminates the provocative future of prenatal genetic testing and the individual and societal dilemmas it will raise. "Right now we can test for a small number of things; in the future that list will grow," says panelist Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. He adds, "The difficulty in making these decisions will also grow. And if we're having trouble now, hold onto your hat."