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Genetic Testing And Cloning: Is Technology Ahead Of The Law?

3794 words - 15 pages

Introduction.Between the ongoing decoding of the human genome, the cloning of Dolly the sheep, and the increasing promise of stem cell research (which is based upon the principles of genetic research), U.S. society has a plethora of new medical legal and ethical issues with which it must come to terms. For example, how can personhood be established when "persons" can be created at will in the laboratory? Furthermore, when personhood is established is especially relevant when considering issues of stem cell research. How can we balance the rights and needs of patients with diseases such as Alzheimer's with those of a society at large that worries about the extent to which science tends to go when given free reign? These are just some of the more obvious legal issues that have arisen with the latest trends in genetic technology. There are, of course, many others, some clearer than others. Moreover, this is such a new form of technology that not only will unforeseen issues emerge with time, but we also will have trouble keeping up with those about which we are already aware.Issues: Pros and Cons.Donald Elliott (61) notes that before entering into the ethical quagmire that seems to surround these issues, legal scholars must remember that science has always changed the law, and society has always struggled with how to incorporate new scientific discoveries into its overall cultural mores. Having said that, he presents several issues that are front and center in this debate. First, and perhaps most frightening to society in general, is the worry that the ultimate reach of genetic testing will be to "design" our offspring, thus gradually phasing certain people and characteristics out of existence based upon certain arbitrary standards (62). A second issue concerns the worry about "genetic profiling" in issues of employment (to either attract or dissuade potential employees from entering certain jobs). Finally, Elliott notes that how we understand genetics (in a metaphorical sense) will dictate how we legislate our application of the knowledge we acquire. By this, he means, for example, the questions concerning whether genes can ever be considered property (63).Elliott makes some excellent points. Our society is still frighteningly unable to truly appreciate differences in appearance, intellectual abilities, and other variations of humanity. There does indeed exist a tremendous potential for people to, at some point in the not-so-distant future, "design" their offspring using genetic technology, or for them to abort fetuses that do not live up to the genetic standards of the day. After all, such behaviors already exist when it comes to the sex of the baby. His point about genetic profiling also has merit. While it is theoretically true that all results of genetic tests can be held in the strictest of confidentiality, it is also true that there are numerous examples of such confidentiality being breached. How can we be absolutely sure the results of our...

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