[...] Cowan seems to be answering their failed argument with a fallacy of her own: the mistake of converting an is or was into an ought - of converting facts by themselves into a moral argument. [...] the practical problem of genetic discrimination on the part of health-insurance companies needs to be addressed by any thoughtful advocate of genetic screening.
books Francis Kane Paved with Good Intentions of most social science, the developing in the battles against PKU and Tay Sachs Heredity and Hope story, like all good yarns, has a certain and the stinging failure of the sickle-cell The Case for Genetic Screening drama to it. It has its share of heroes story. Cowan’s paradigmatic case is the Ruth Schwartz Cowan and villains and a troublesome chorus. lesser-known story of beta-thalassemia Harvard University Press, $27.95, 304 pp. The villains, eugenicists such as the Eng- disease on the island of Cyprus. There lishman Francis Galton, the American the author spent time studying how both I n Heredity and Hope, Ruth Schwartz Hermann Muller, the Russian Alexsandr the Turkish and Cypriot communities Cowan, professor of history and soci- Serebrovsky, and the infamous Nazis, are have virtually eliminated this genetic ology of science at the University of given short shrift, which is what they and (if untreated) fatal blood disorder Pennsylvania, has written an informative deserve. Cowan’s heroes are the scientists through what amounts to a mandatory and readable history of genetic screen- and physicians—people like James Neel, screening policy. It is her experience in ing. She walks the reader through the who was among the first to see the thera- Cyprus that changed Cowan’s views and complex and sometimes controversial peutic possibilities of Mendel’s genetics; led to her unabashed support of genetic practices that have created the new field Fritz Fuchs, who developed the procedure screening. of genetic medicine. As for the claim in of amniocentesis; Robert Guthrie, who The book’s dramatic tension is pro- the subtitle, The Case for Genetic Screen- developed the test for PKU; and others vided by what one might call the op- ing, well, on that score: caveat lector! who successfully combined the develop- positional chorus. The author is trying 7 First, the historical account. In the first ing science of genetics with the practice to address four very different groups that half of her book, the author recounts for of obstetrics. There are dramatic victories reject the new medical genetics: some the lay reader the story of the beginnings of genetic testing (for individuals) and screening (for groups) as they developed out of, and differentiated themselves from, the morally opprobrious eugen- SEVEN DEADLY SINS A V E RY P A RT I A L L I S T ics movements of the first half of the twentieth century. The new forms of AV I A D K L E I N B E R G screening—prenatal, newborn, and car- T R A N S L AT E D B Y S U S A N E M A N U E L I N C O L L A B O R AT I O N W I T H T H E A U T H O R rier testing—have, as she sees it, goals that are significantly different from those There is no society without right and wrong. of the eugenics movement. She points There is no society without sin. But every out (fairly convincingly for this nonhis- culture has its own favorite list of trespasses. torian) that the missions of eugenics and Perhaps the most inﬂuential of these was genetic screening are at cross-purposes drawn up by the Church in late antiquity: the with each other: eugenicists wanted to Seven Deadly Sins. With intellectual insight purify the gene pool by eliminating un- and deadpan humor, Kleinberg deftly guides . November 7, 2008 desirable genetic traits—mainly through the reader through Jewish, Christian, sterilization—while the techniques of and Greco-Roman thoughts
Pages to are hidden for
"Paved with Good Intentions"Please download to view full document