Whole genome sequencing of babies

Policy Briefing

Published 27/03/2018

WGS cover web
Sleeping newborn 597 x 330

This briefing note explores the ethical issues raised by whole genome sequencing of babies.


  • Whole genome sequencing is cheaper and faster than ever, but interpreting the results is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.
  • Whole genome sequencing is starting to be used in the NHS to help obtain a diagnosis for some seriously ill babies.
  • What genetic information should be shared with parents, and how genetic data should be stored, accessed, and used requires further public consideration.
  • There is debate about whether genome sequencing could be used to expand NHS newborn screening to include additional genetic conditions.
  • There is broad agreement within the genetics community that it is not acceptable to use whole genome sequencing to look opportunistically for a broad range of conditions in babies. However, some parents express a desire for this kind of information and might be able to access commercial whole genome sequencing in the future.

Project team


Ran Svenning Berg

Research and Policy Manager

Ranveig undertakes research to support the Council’s work and monitors developments in areas of interest to the Council.

Prior to this she was the Communications Officer at the Council, and before that managed communications at the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and completed a BA in Development Studies and International Relations at London Metropolitan University.