And that is exactly what the companies Sequenom and Verinata are doing with their prenatal blood tests that can indicate whether or not a fetus has Down syndrome. They are capitalizing on old fears, outdated ideas and stereotypes, and the need for a perfect child to the tune of an estimated 2 billion dollars a year.
Today www.xconomy.com published an article, written by Luke Timmerman, touting Verinata’s release of their version of the MaterniT21 blood test developed by Sequenom,
"The promise of this eventual capability has been in play for more than 20 years. Now when it’s finally here, there’s a wonder and awe in the community,” says Caren Mason, Verinata’s CEO.
Awe and wonder... I don’t think that is what I feel. Pissed off is what I feel. If you have time, go read the article. It provides the most straight-forward admission of what this push for prenatal testing is about, money. I am not against prenatal testing but I am against pressure to get prenatal testing and/or to terminate based on the results of testing.
The company has hired genetic counselors to help doctors with communicating results to patients, and has people working on economic impact, which it hopes will persuade insurers to cover the cost of the test over time, Mason says.
Ms. Mason, it strikes me that there is a strong conflict of interest in your statements. The only way you convince insurance companies that covering the cost of your test is economically sound is to ensure them that the results of such testing will lead to the terminations of “medically expensive” children. So, to make your test worth it’s cost, your genetic counselors need to help doctors communicate to pregnant women that they should abort their babies with Ds.
It is beyond unethical for these companies to hire people to “help” doctors communicate with their patients. That kind of manipulation for financial gain should be illegal. I am pro-choice but to me that means a completely informed choice not a “choice” pressured by a doctor pressured by a genetic counselor hired by a company making billions off the whole scheme.
Don’t go running to invest your money quite yet as Timmerman goes on to write,
There are a million things that could sink the endeavor, whether it’s competition, litigation, insurance resistance, or physician skepticism. There’s even potential for political and moral debates to sidetrack the company, as people argue over whether it’s ethical to use this kind of information to potentially abort a fetus.
While it might be ethical to use information about your fetus to decide if you want to continue the pregnancy, it is not ethical to insinuate that people with Down syndrome are too expensive to allow them their lives.
What else is not ethical? The constant articles dredging up (in a positive way, you know, with the intent of putting them to rest) old statistics, stereotypes, labels, and fears that serve to reiterate a negativity around Down syndrome.
And what I view as most unethical is a doctor or diagnostics professional not sharing the readily available information that gives a woman the freedom to research and educate herself about the baby she is carrying and what its life might be like.
Sadly, Mason does not seem to let ethics get in the way of money making,
She sounds deeply determined to get this one right. “This is about execution, execution, execution,” she says.
Yeah, Mason you got that right.
So here is my question readers, should companies like Verinata and Sequenom be required to share the results of their "economic impact" studies and the genetic counselors' coaching plans that will be used to "help doctors communicate with patients" with the general public?
In case you don't have time to read the article, here is my "favorite" comment on it so far. I wonder exactly what "it" is that he wants people to think about.
I reckon the biotech segment is pretty hot right now. Why is this guy not writing the article about Sequenom? Really…..Think about it………….$$$$$