Caution: Eugenics, Not An Issue of The Past. (makeup for DS Mem)

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When the topic of Eugenics came up in lecture and Chapter 9, it was new to me. I never knew that this social movement, termed by Sir Francis Galton, took place in the early twentieth century. One particularly trivial evidence of this movement was the popularity of the boy's name Eugene spiking in the 1920s. My mind immediately went to one of my favorite movies (it just is okay) Gattaca, where the lead character's genetically superior brother is named Eugene, in a world where genetics has become the new form of 'classicsm'. Check out this video for a great visual analysis of the movie (red appears in the doctors office because red, like blood, is trusted. The staircase in the apartment resembles a DNA double helix).

Our text states that Eugenics or genetics were brought back into question in the 1960s, and it seems it's making a reappearance in the present. This 2010 Wall Street Journal Article describes an abortion subsidy policy of Obamacare that was being debated as a cost cutting measure for the burden of babies who don't grow into productive adults.

Here's an excerpt that brings the point home:
Getting government into the eugenics business would have disturbing implications for reproductive liberty. What would happen to a woman who received, say, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome? She would be free (as she is today) to exercise her right to have an abortion. But would she be free to exercise her right not to have an abortion?

Presumably the government could not directly force her to abort, as this would provoke political outrage and run afoul of Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings. But one can easily imagine softer forms of coercion coming into play. A government-run insurance plan, for instance, could deny or limit coverage for the treatment of certain conditions if diagnosed before fetal viability, on the ground that the taxpayer should not be forced to pay the costs of the woman's choice to carry her child to term. Perhaps the courts would find this an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose, but that does not strike us as an open-and-shut case.

Lastly, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recently promoted a start-up he's been an investor in, called Wellness FX, which in the last month opened for public business in San Francisco. They are a private company that sends a medical professional to your home or office to collect blood samples, providing comprehensive diagnostics. One of their offerings is a genetic profile.

"Assessing cardiac genetic markers provides a window into an individual's risks for a variety of healthrelated risks. These tests measure markers such as Prothrombin Mutation, Factor V Leiden, Warfarin Sensitivity, and the type of genes you have for folic acid metabolism. It is important to learn your genetic profile." (

In his book, The Four Hour Body, Ferriss mentions identifying his muscle fiber content and other genetic factors and used this information to improve his fast-muscle twitch training.

I don't find it hard to imagine that in the future this set of data will be another on the list that can be shared between companies. It' somewhat alarming how fast this would have the possibility of progressing, and while it's not new that upper class receive information first, the advantage of leveraging your genetic make-up sets the stage for further distancing of the 20% of our population that grosses 80% of all wealth.

I know it's the end of the semester, but if anyone is still reading I'd love to hear comments of what people think about this issue. What do you think?

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This page contains a single entry by marc0271 published on May 5, 2012 5:19 PM.

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