Inspirational Passage of the Day
People should have the right, they argue, to have all of the information necessary to live a full, happy, and healthy life. The benefits of genetic testing include parents being made aware of their potential to pass on genetic diseases to offspring or finding out that a newborn or fetus has a genetic disease. Genetic testing could be beneficial for cancer research, treatment of advanced diseases, and development of new drugs that target specific genes and gene functions. Embryonic screening allows for the elimination of inherited diseases before birth or a treatment plan before birth. In breast cancer patients, genetic testing allows the physician to know if chemotherapy is necessary, which would expand treatment options. Genetic testing could eliminate years of experimental testing and medication use used to diagnose a new disease. Overall, genetic testing is in alignment with the core medical philosophy that early prevention leads to early treatment, which leads to an overall better outcome for the patient.
The opposing side argues, however, that society is not ready for this technology. People may not be capable of handling the emotional or psychological stress associated with genetic testing. Results may vary between genetic testing companies and many variables, such as sampling errors, could lead to a false positive or false negative test. Further, it is possible that some people may interpret the seriousness or implications of their results incorrectly. This could result in people making unnecessary, and even dangerous, lifestyle changes. For example, if a person is told that he or she has a 60% of being diagnosed with breast cancer, that person may undergo preventative surgery to avoid the disease; however, such surgery may have been unnecessary, as the person may never have developed the disease.
Additionally, as the popularity of genetic testing increases, some fear that a person’s genetic information would not be secure from those who may misuse the information. For example, insurance companies may be able to obtain the information and use it against their customers to raise prices on premiums, carve out specific genetic conditions from coverage, or even deny insurance altogether. Alternatively, a person’s genetic information could be “hijacked” by simply leaving behind saliva on a used spoon or strand of hair: a genetic hacker could steal the person’s DNA and, therefore, steal the person’s entire genetic identity.