FAVREAU: Effects of Genetic Testing

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After completing my reflection paper on the how gene therapy effects and is affected by society, I wanted to learn more about this field.  I found the legal aspect and they effects of the scientific breakthroughs to be very interesting.  I read an article about genetic testing, and the positive along with negative effects that can result from it.  Genetic testing gives an individual the option to know if they are at risk for a certain inheritable disease.  This topic interests me because it gives the individual the choice as to whether or not they want to be tested for the diseases, and greatly affects their lives.  Although the individual is given the choice, there are still legal sanctions that have been created due to this technology.  In 2008 the "Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act" was passed, preventing insurance companies from being able to discriminate based on one's genetic data.  I feel that this type of discrimination probably never crossed the minds of scientists when they were developing mechanisms for determining if individuals are at risk.  How many times does more negative consequences result from a development, than positive beneficial results?  This relates to many of the articles we have been reading, as to whether or not science is positively or negatively impacting society and who is in control?

For the topic of genetic testing, there both positive and negative effects to the technology.  On the positive side, it allows patients to be prepared for the disease.  There may be treatment options or preventative measures the patient can follow, and it allows them to make insightful choices regarding reproduction (the possibility of passing the trait on).  Scientists view these as extraordinarily beneficial from a scientific standpoint, but on a personal level things may not seem so bright.  For many people, the option of knowing they were highly at risk of acquiring a disease would change their whole lifestyle.  Many people don't want to know if they have are going to be hit with an incurable disease.  This choice is left up to the individual to make.

The possibility of genetic testing data falling into the wrong hands and being used against one, is very unsettling.  The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act protects citizens from being discriminated against due to their genetic make-up, but there uncertainty still remains.  Is this technology going to be used to help citizens, or is it going to develop into something that is used to create some sort of "eugenics"?  At this point, the process is a choice for each individual, but will that change in the future, and if so what kind of effects would this have on society?  

Every new technology and scientific breakthrough has the possibility of being misused.  For genetic testing, this misuse is currently being controlled by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  I think it is very important that regulatory agencies continue to intervene and create sanctions for new technologies so that they, like genetic testing, can be used to positively impact society, by the choice of the individual. 

4 Comments

I completely agree with your comments concerning genetic testing. I am well familiar with a family who has undergone testing, after two men in the family, brothers, both died, within six weeks of one another, from pancreatic (one of them) cancer and liver (the other) cancer. The genetic testing identified a mutation on the 16th chromosome in both of these men, who were 50 and 52 years of age when they died, respectively. While the testing took place during their illnesses (which were both in advanced stages at the time of testing), what has become paramount is the testing of particularly the males in their family. Pre-cancerous conditions have been identified in one young man, now age 15. I believe they have the ability to be somewhat proactive about the ongoing health needs of this young man. Under no circumstances should government regulations stand in the way of seeking proper care for each individual human.

For the Love of Money, Power, and War

I find it fascinating in Adams' piece that it seems unavoidable to address both money and war in the same conversation. It appears war is our greatest economic advantage and disadvantage. After reading Turse, I asked my self how much information our government is keeping from us, in regard to how much is spent on building our arms and munitions stock, how much we actually need, and how much of it is in fact used to defend us or is in fact used to fuel wars in other locations around the world? Even after watching "Why We Fight" I cannot come up with many conclusive answers.

Adams says, "The military-industrial complex is only a special case illustrating the power problems inherent in the new industrial state. . .to the extent that they are creatures of political power and not the product of natural evolution, there is nothing inevitable about their survival and nothing inevitable about the public policies which spawn and preserve them." (656).

Is it ethical to continue to produce these weapons knowing the ramifications of their production; the destruction they can and may well cause? I must agree with President Eisenhower's approach to our artillery. We must attempt to understand conflicts in other places based on THEIR cultural ideals, not ours, before offering our assistance. Instead of doing this, instead of thinking logically about the conflicts we enter, we subsistute the technological fix of bigger better guns. I am not disputing the fact that we must protect our own borders. On the contrary I feel we could better protect them with our troops back in the states where they belong.

At times yes there is a need for we Americans to offer our help to other countries in which tyrants threaten, Hitler's Germany and the horrible genocides in the Sudan are cases in point, but we must not enter conflicts which we do not understand, into which we are going simply for the sake of military enterprise. Our soldiers are too valuable to gamble. Our munitions too costly.

I'm not certain I agree with Adams about allowing a free market on bombs and other munitions. That to spells disaster in a very real sense. Truly, there is no going back now that technology has been developed, it is also reasonable that now we can never stop progressing technology. What we can do is move forward with caution.

Kim Melchert

This topic has always been a tricky one. The insurance company issue is at the forefront in whether they will cover you or not, and their argument being that they are just assesing risk. One of the other gene testing issues that hit me hard though was the testing of unborn children. Should mothers be able to test to see if the child that they might have will have autism or some other disease that will inhibit the child and abort the child. This raises some ethical questions that are quite troubling. I think that there is an application for gene testing but there needs to be a line that shouldn't be crossed.

The use of gene therapy gives me mixed feelings. I do agree that it could be used to benefit society by ridding us of genetic disorders, but do the benefits outweigh the risks. I my opinion, I would say that scientists did think about the discrimination possibilities, but they didn't necessarily care. I would say this, because most scientists only care about the next invention they are able to make, and being the first to make it. I think the use of gene therapy will have a negative effect on society because of discimination risks, but also because of religion and personal beliefs.

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This page contains a single entry by favr0015 published on October 18, 2009 8:19 PM.

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