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Genetic Testing And Screening Essay

1868 words - 7 pages

Many things are changing at an extremely rapid rate in our society. The new advances in the areas of science and biotechnology are raising many ethical and moral dilemmas for everyone. No one will be left unaffected. Everyone will have to make a decision and take a stand on these issues. I will discuss advancements of genetic screening and testing. The first step to any ethical problem is to understand the topic. It is difficult to formulate accurate ideas without knowledge about the topic, so first I will provide a little background information on genetic screening. I will then point out some of the areas of controversy associated with genetic screening, and finally I will discuss my view on the topic.

Genetic screening can be used to refer to any activity that locates or advises people about genetically connected diseases. The first large-scale genetic screening project began in the 1960's with the Guthrie test which tests infants for PKU (phenylketonuria) (Munson, 1996). Currently with the advances being made by the Human Genome project we are achieving a much more detailed understanding of the relationship between specific genes and diseases. Approximately nine hundred gene or gene markers have been linked to diseases (Munson, 1996). With all of the new information about our genes, the ability to develop tests to screen for these genes is becoming possible for a much larger number of diseases. Some of the current DNA tests available diagnose Adult polycystic kidney disease, Alpha-1-Antitrypsin deficiency, familial adenomatous polyposis, hemophilia, Huntington's disease, myotonic dystrophy, and familial breast cancer susceptibility (Munson, 1996). Many more tests are well on the way to being developed. With the possibility of testing for numerous diseases we are going to be able to gain an increasingly vast amount of knowledge about ourselves. In some ways genetic screening will become similar to a fortuneteller - a scientific fortuneteller. This new information will have some obvious benefits. We will now be able to predict if we will be susceptible to a certain disease and consequently take more preventative measures against that disease. Treatment for some genetic diseases may also become available and we will be able to treat that disease. With our new technology, we may be able to treat problems in utero before a child is even born. This new information may seem like a great benefit up front, but there are many areas of ethical and moral concern that need to be addressed. What kind of decisions is this new information going to call on us to make? Who will have access to this information?

One of the main concerns to genetic screening is that it will lead to new forms of discrimination. This new discrimination could arise in a number of areas. One area that worries many groups is discrimination in the workplace based on genetic predisposition. Could or would employers use genetic information when hiring employees? Munson points out a...

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