The Ethical Nature of Genetic Screening in Humans

Essay by techturtleCollege, UndergraduateA-, February 2008

download word file, 7 pages 4.3 1 reviews

Downloaded 70 times

The prospect of genetic screening of individuals and populations is a relatively new opportunity to our society, and with it comes a multitude of fears and concerns over its proper use. Concerns range from improper use of private information by corporations and even family members, to psychological implications of knowing one's own "genetic future." These uncertainties lead many people to question whether genetic screening of human beings should be allowed. Despite the possible perils, the benefits of genetic screening can be equally weighty. Genetic screening may detect diseases in a treatable or even preventable phase, saving lives and suffering. Continued genetic screening in the population can also increase scientists' ability to improve the quality of human life in many aspects. Thus, our moral dilemma is whether genetic screening of human beings is ever ethical, and assuming it is, under what conditions should it be done or its results used?Clarifying ConceptsThe main concept that needs clarification is the actual nature of genetic testing and how it differs from conventional, non-genetic tests.

Genetic testing can take several forms and functions, but the primary concern for this discussion is on what is referred to as predictive testing. This is using a test on an asymptomatic patient to look for markers in their genetic code which may indicate an increased tendency or susceptibility towards a certain disease, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's or cancer (Green & Botkin, 2003). Predictive genetic testing works in much the same way as conventional testing, such as for cholesterol levels. The presence or absence of certain genetic markers can be statistically linked to higher occurrences of a certain disease, just as high levels of cholesterol are linked to higher occurrences of coronary artery disease. In precisely the same way that a patient with high cholesterol may live a normal, full...