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The Idea Of Discrimination Based On Genetic

1447 words - 6 pages

The film Gattaca was released in 1997, just six years prior to the completion of the Human Genome Project (completed in April 2003), with a working draft completed in June 2000. The name of the film refers to an Aerospace corporation featured in the movie; however, its letters correspond to the 4 nucleotide bases that make up the integrity of the human genome. The sequencing of the human genome poses tremendous benefits not only in the future, but in the present. From identifying pharmaceutical targets in the body, screening for diseased genes, or determine if individuals are predisposed for certain hereditary or nonhereditary illness’. Despite these benefits, there are ethical issues that must be addressed with the knowledge attained from sequencing the human genome.

The recurring motif present in Gattaca was the idea of genetic discrimination and restricting people to a certain social class, career and overall way of life based on their genetic make – up. The idea of discrimination based on genetic make up was debated prior to the completion of the Human Genome Project. In 1996, the United States government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which sought to protect individuals from unauthorized and non – consensual release of health related information. The film discusses the notion of genetic discrimination in great detail, postulating that individuals in the futuristic society are limited by their predisposed genetic make – up. The titular character in Gattaca, Vincent, was born through natural means, without the interference of reproductive technologies and in vitro fertilization. Upon birth a blood sample was able to determine major ailments he may be susceptible to in the future (such as attention deficit disorder and premature heart failure), as well as overall life expectancy. In the film, whole genomic sequences of any human could be instantly analyzed without consent, with intimate details about the person’s susceptibility to certain diseases, their genotype and thereby their phenotype as well. As the film progresses, Vincent’s parents realize that because of their sons unfavourable genotype, he is subject to prejudice by insurance companies, schools he attends, and even his employers. Vincent’s parents turn to a geneticist, using their sequenced genomes to combine ideal characteristics they both possess to give birth to a second “genetically superior child”. Geneticists could offer to select against any prejudicial conditions that the child may attain through the random reproduction process, going so far as to put a $5000 price tag on adding a sequence that enhances mathematical or musical ability. Through this technology and enough money, a couple could essentially produce the perfect offspring, endowed with all the characteristics to make them successful. In Gattaca, designer babies have become the norm, with those possessing favourable genes labelled as valids and those possessing...

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