The paper explores the science behind genetic testing, its different variations, commercializing the technology, and the ethical and moral implications this recent technology has had on society. The paper discusses why genetic testing is not only ethical, but essential to promoting health, and what aspects of it should be better regulated to assure higher standards and more public acceptance.
GENETIC TESTING: THE NEXT STEP TO UNTAPPING THE HUMAN GENOME A DISCUSSION ON THE ETHICS BEHIND GENETIC TESTING Yavor Mishev A BSTRACT The following paper explores the science behind genetic testing, its different variations, commercializing the technology, and the ethical and moral implications this recent technology has had on society. The paper discusses why genetic testing is not only ethical, but essential to promoting health, and what aspects of it should be better regulated to assure higher standards and more public acceptance. P a g e |2 The human species has existed as we know it for over 200,000 years. Yet it is only within the last 140 years that we have become aware of DNA and the human genome, and even less since we have been able to isolate and manipulate it. In this short time we have learned incredible amounts of information about ourselves and subsequently how to treat many of the diseases that used to defeat us. A large part of it is thanks to genetic studies and microbiology. Thanks to technologies developed in the last century, the human race has been able to advance in the battle against diseases that were thought incurable before that. Genetic testing has a large part to play in that battle. Although it has been the subject of major controversy, genetic screening has many benefits that if utilized properly, can help shape a technology that is both ethical and powerful in saving lives. Genetic testing can trace its origins to the discovery of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) by Friedrich Miescher in 19691. Following the groundbreaking discovery, it was not long until scientists were able to link DNA genetic information that is carried over from ancestors2. DNA is responsible for carrying genetic information, such as physical traits (hair colour, eye colour, physical structure, etc), as well as carrying down genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, Haemophilia, Phenylketonuria, amongst hundreds of others3. Because of that, scientists discovered that a disease that ancestors may have exhibited can be carried over through DNA to future generations. It wasn’t until 1972 that scientists successfully isolated DNA from a virus and combined it with bacterial DNA, essentially giving birth to genetic engineering4. Ever since, scientists have consistently discovered new ways to completely prevent, cure, or lessen the effects of a number of genetic diseases. There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community as to whether genetic screening is ethical, moral, or accurate. One of the main issues today is known as genetic discrimination, which means that people may be treated differently based on gene mutations or irregularities by employers or insurance companies. Patients who undergo genetic testing usually have their results published in their medical records. Those records are often examined by life insurance companies, and employers. This is pushing a lot of people against genetic testing simply because of fear that it may affect their ability to find a job or get insurance5. In response to these concerns, the U.S. government very recently passed a bill that makes genetic discrimination a crime6. Indeed, information like 1 (Dahm, 2008) 2 (Lorenz & Wackernagel, 1994) 3 (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2009) 4 (Devore, 1992) 5 (Harmon, 2008) 6 (President Bush Signs Genetic Nondiscrimination Legislation Into Law, 2008) P a g e |3 that is very sensitive and should be kept private if possible. Even if keeping the information private is not possible, it should have no negative effect on a potential consumer. As long as the results are used for information purposes only by the individual tested so that any genetic disorders or potential complications can be monitored and prevented, the technology is completely moral. Another issue raised by opposition is the fact that companies are commercializing the practice of genetic screening, a type of testing known as Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing. This type of testing is directly accessible to the consumer, allowing for bypassing of a healthcare professional and getting the test directly. A test like that involves a professional getting the permission of the c
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