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Genes, Chromosomes, and Disease: From Simple Traits, to Complex Traits, to Personalized Medicine by Nicholas Wright Gillham

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8. Preventing genetic disease

On June 26, 1974, just prior to her second birthday, Melisa Howard died of Tay-Sachs disease.1 Her mother, Laura Howard, had been a patient of Dr. B. Douglass Lecher, a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. He had cared for Mrs. Howard during her previous pregnancy, performed regular gynecological examinations on Mrs. Howard prior to Melisa’s birth, and was present when the baby was born.

Following Melisa’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, who were Jewish, sued Dr. Lecher claiming that his negligence had prevented them from terminating the pregnancy by abortion. They alleged that Dr. Lecher should have known that, because of their genetic background, the plaintiffs were “potential carriers of Tay-Sachs ...

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