TEXAS FAITH 73: Is knowing a fetus’ entire genome taking medical knowledge too far?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

How much information is enough?

The New York Times reported last week that researchers have discovered that performing simple tests on parents can lead to an understanding of almost the entire genome of a fetus. By taking a blood sample from a pregnant woman and a saliva specimen from the father, experts can let parents know virtually all the DNA of a child before it is born.

As the Times reported, thousands of genetic diseases could be detected. In the not-so-distant future, parents could pay an affordable price to get that information, too.

But this breakthrough also raises complicated ethical issues. On the one hand, parents could be more ready for the challenges that await them. Yet will this lead to more abortions, including of children whose parents don’t like the DNA profile?

Undoubtedly, we all like information. But you could argue the creation story in Genesis shows the risks that come in acquiring knowledge.

Is this one of those instances? Is this discovery taking medical knowledge too far?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

In Vedic culture knowledge that had the potential to be harmful was privileged to those who had the moral character to use it properly. "Ignorance is dangerous but misguided knowledge is the most dangerous" Śrī Īśopaniṣad 9. But here the basic problem is that people are ignorant of the laws of God and the laws of nature.

Whatever genetic profile the child may get is really a result of karma from his or her previous lives, and whatever child the couple may receive is also due to the karma from the parents’ previous lives.

It is better to accept one’s karma than to try to deal with it unlawfully, in such a manner as abortion. To kill a child within the womb or outside the womb is against the laws of God. By accepting the child that was given to the parents by God’s arrangement the couple decreases their karma. By killing the child their suffering only doubles. They will not be able to escape the karma that caused them to have that particular child, and in that case they will also have to accept the karma of killing an innocent child.

It is by the superior order of God that a particular soul is directed to take birth from a particular mother and father. If we try to interfere it is both unlawful and punishable by the laws of nature.

Therefore, in regard to this question, the main issue is that information should not be used to transgress the laws of nature and the laws of God.

On a side note, in the Vedic culture, contrary to materialistic calculations, it was accepted that sometimes being born in a handicapped body was a blessing. Because such a soul, instead of being allured to enjoy this material world and missing the goal of life, could have less of a drive for false temporary happiness and a better drive to seek out and experience life’s purpose, to develop one’s loving relationship with God.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.