Running Babies Through a Scanner Darkly


cool baby

From today's Congress Daily:

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is scheduled to make a pitch on Capitol Hill today for legislation on the House floor requiring all states to screen newborns for the full complement of disorders that can be detected in early childhood.

Kelly, whose 8-year-old son died in 2005 of a nervous system disorder called Krabbe disease, planned to join Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Children and Families Subcommittee, to urge the House to pass Dodd's newborn-screening bill. A vote on the legislation is scheduled for today.

Not all states screen infants for all disorders such as Krabbe, and Dodd's bill would require such testing to be uniform across the country.

While it's easy to imagine (and to celebrate) a world where genetic testing is so cheap and easy that most people get their kids tested as a matter of course, mandating testing at this stage doesn't make sense and may even slow progress and artificially inflate prices.

The same reasoning applies here as in the case of mandating florescent light bulbs: A mandate will reduce incentives to keep pushing prices down and testing technology at the bleeding edge of science. Plus, picking a list of disorders to be tested for, and setting it down in the fast-drying concrete of legislation will breed a less flexible, less adaptable field.

How's this for a case of nanny state--literal and figurative?