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What the Future Holds

As fetal genome screening becomes more of a reality and more widespread, parents will "quickly learn that there is no such thing as a perfect baby," Scientific American writes. Such tests could reveal not only susceptibility to disease — both those that strike early and those that are adult-onset — but also to other conditions and possibly personality traits. "Without careful planning, moreover, the new prenatal genetics might rob a child of the freedom to make decisions best left until adulthood — whether or not to learn, for instance, if a mutation predicts the inevitability of Huntington's disease 20 years hence," the magazine says.

Scientific American adds that the government, industry, and professional societies should develop policies on how to handle fetal genome screening. It notes that there are a few options, including going through a genetic counselor, though it acknowledges that they are not enough counselors to meet the anticipated demand. "Without access to a much higher level of refined expertise, the secrets of our offspring's genetic code will continue to remain an unnerving cipher — or worse," it warns.