1) If genetic manipulation does become a reality, I think allowing non-disease characteristics to be altered would have serious ethical and social implications. Screening for diseases and treating or eradicating them totally would be a huge benefit to mankind, but to use genetic technology to produce “designer babies” will most likely lead to a social divide similar to that portrayed in the movie “Gattaca” (De Vito and Niccol, 1997).
Such technology would most likely be expensive and only those who can afford it will benefit and gain undue advantage over those not fortunate enough to have the financial means to avail of the technology, leading to a social system where you have the genetically-enhanced superior class and the “inferior” citizens conceived the natural way. 2) I don’t think life insurance companies should have access to a person’s genetic information. As it is, I believe insurance policies already hold a lot of stipulations that policy holders more often than not, end up receiving the short end of the bargain.
If insurance companies find out that a person has a predisposition to a disease, they could easily refuse to provide that person with insurance and that I think, would be unfair since they would be depriving that person of his need to secure financial aid in case he does get sick. In the interest of fairly sharing risks though, insurance companies may be allowed limited access to genetic information. Limited, because I believe the welfare of policy holders should still be of topmost priority and any form of discrimination against individuals should not be allowed.
3) Yes, I believe that the information from the Human Genome Project (HGP) will bring tremendous benefits to a lot of people in the next 20 years. Technology develops at a very fast pace and it is not impossible that Collins’ predictions may very well come true. Already, the underlying genetic problems responsible for certain diseases have already been identified and with the genetic map from the HGP, the causes of a lot of other afflictions will be identified and from there, therapies can and will be developed.
Even though custom-made therapies will most likely be more difficult to develop and perfect, the identification of disease genes will still greatly benefit the general population (Nova Online, 2001). 4) I think we are not that prepared for the implications that will result from the applications of these information. Right now, our society is already struggling with various other ethical issues in other biotechnological fields like stem cell research and it would be too naive to ignore the present and potential issues that may arise due to the far-reaching consequences of the HGP.
5) I don’t think employers should have access to an individual’s genetic information since there is the danger that a person may be discriminated on the basis of his genetic profile. As of present, I think discrimination may be viewed as singling out an individual for what he is (e. g. his race, gender, etc. ), but to discriminate someone based on his genetic profile would also mean discriminating him for what he could be. A person can be at risk for a certain disease but that’s just it – it’s a probability, not a guarantee.
Besides, it would also mean discounting a person’s capabilities in spite of whatever genetic condition he may have. There have been countless stories of people overcoming their disabilities so there is no reason that one should be discriminated or favored based on his genetic makeup. 6) I don’t think it is that surprising, especially if I consider that like me, these lower organisms are alive, so it’s really just logical that we do share something in common. Considering though how much more complex we seem to be compared to these organisms, then yes, it is surprising that we don’t seem to be that genetically different from them.
7) I believe that testing of unborn children should be confined to deleterious genes, i. e. those that have serious and possibly life-threatening consequences such as that with diseases. I believe it’s a matter of putting things in perspective. Traits and disabilities like homosexuality or color blindness may be undesirable but they really seem trivial compared to serious afflictions that may mean life or death for the child. 8) If it’s a curable or preventable disease, then I would probably be in favor of being tested so that I can take the necessary steps to prevent or prepare myself in case I do get sick.
However, I can’t say that decision would be as simple in the case of non-treatable diseases, because as with the woman who tested positive for a BRCA mutation (Nova Online, 2001), knowing that I am at risk for a disease that has no cure will probably mean that I will be living my life everyday with a sword hanging over my head and it would be very hard to live life that way. 9) Yes, I would want my mate and I to be tested if we were carriers for a disease prior to having children.
I wouldn’t want to take the risk of bearing a child only to have him/her suffer from the disease that we carry when we could’ve spared him/her from that difficult life. I believe that I owe it to my future child to have myself and my partner tested. 10) I don’t think genes or genomic material should be patented because as Lander has observed, apprehensions over whether a particular gene or part of the genome has already been patented has become a limiting factor in that drug companies usually wouldn’t want to take the risk of working on treatments that might already be protected by a patent (Nova Online, 2001).
I believe that there are several ways that scientists can approach a disease and develop a treatment for it, so why patent genes or genomic material? Why not just let everybody have access to such information so that not only one drug company can work at a specific disease but rather several, so that there’s a better chance that one of them will be able to develop a treatment which they would then have all the right to patent? Let’s take for example the case of cystic fibrosis.
The gene responsible for this disease was discovered way back in 1989 and yet no cure has been discovered up to now (Nova Online, 2001). It only goes to show that identifying the gene responsible for the disease does not automatically mean that the cure would also be discovered consequently, so why allow the burden of further limitations brought on by patents?
References: De Vito, D. (Producer), & Niccol, A. (Director). (1997). Gattaca [Motion Picture]. USA: Sony Pictures. NOVA Online. (2001). Cracking the code of life. Retrieved May 30, 2007, from http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/nova/genome/program. html.
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