UK Plans to Give All Children Full Genome Sequence at Birth

The U.K. may start offering full genome sequencing to every child born in the country, an official says.Health Secretary Matt Hancock sees the future ubiquity of genetic sequencing as a way to offer “predictive, personalized” care for children who have rare diseases and other genetic conditions, according to The Telegraph. While the tests could theoretically improve medical treatment, it also raises a slew of questions about medical privacy, consent, and the future of the human race.Right now, the U.K. intends to offer full-genome sequencing to every child with cancer by the end of 2019, The Telegraph reports, along with adults who have uncommon types of cancer or other diseases. Hancock hopes, however, to take the initiative even further.

He says that offering genetic tests to every child born in the U.K. would bring about a “genomic revolution,” according to The Telegraph.

“We will give every child the best possible start in life by ensuring they get the best possible medical care as soon as they enter the world,” Hancock said. “Predictive, preventative, personalized healthcare — that is the future of the NHS — and whole genome sequencing and genomics is going to play a huge part in that.”

But it would also mean that kids’ entire genetic sequence will be mapped out long before they can understand what that means or agree to having it done. As genomic science develops, dilemmas about personal privacy and what happens to the data after it’s collected are still far from being sorted out.

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