The article “Fetal Genome Screening Could Prove Tragic” (Scientific American, 2013) warns against the potential misuse of the incoming revolution of commercial genetic mapping. The main concern is that the public still doesn’t understand the limitations of genetic mapping in terms of predictability yet it will make serious life decisions on the basis of these inconclusive and sometimes faulty tests. The advancements in technology means that the new genome testing services will not only be far more comprehensive than the options currently available but will also be quite affordable. These tests may result in selective discrimination against unborn children, especially those with undesirable traits or high probability of inheriting a particular disability. In addition to discrimination, these tests may also strengthen social stigma against groups like Albinos whose condition is really not considered a disability.
The article stresses upon the need of developing a comprehensive policy on genome testing by stakeholders such as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), genome-testing companies, and American Society of Human Genetics. The recommendations include genetics counselor providing filtered set of information to parents, giving more weight to life-threatening disease risks, and safeguarding the child’s right to not to be informed about later-in-life disease risk until adulthood. The article claims there is still an inadequate supply of health professionals who could serve as reliable genomics counselors.
This article addresses the DNA and gene concepts studied in the course. This article confirms the idea that understanding genetic makeup can tell us a lot about the traits and diseases an individual may inherit. This article also helps us understand that our genes are like instruction manuals that guide the development and functionality of our biological setup. But the article does indicate that while we have been able to decode our genetic makeup, we still have a relatively poor understanding of how different genes interact with each other to result in a particular trait or cause a particular disease risk. Thus, while we can make some predictions, we should still take a cautious approach when basing decisions on these predictions.
The article caught my attention because it demonstrates the reality that scientific progress often comes with ethical implications. I personally know people who have faced social stigma either due to disability or unique traits and I also know how disability could result in serious mental anguish as well as financial burden on the family. I could relate with the predictions in the article that genome testing may result in discrimination against fetuses who may be deemed to have a higher risk of inheriting a disability or an undesirable trait. I believe that the public still doesn’t understand the limitations of genome testing and is unaware of the fact that genes interact with each other in complicated ways which we still don’t understand quite well yet they would be basing some of the most difficult decisions in life on their unreliable tests.
I do believe the government should fund the research on genetics because it will also have several other benefits one of which may be the development of more effective drugs that could be targeted at particular genes. While we still don’t understand quite well how genes interact with each other to produce particular traits or result in particular disease risks, the only solution is more progress in genomics and government assistance could go a long way in making a significant progress in the near future.
Scientific American. (2013, February). Fetal Genome Screening Could Prove Tragic. Scientific American.