Human Genome Mapping and Healthcare
There was an announcement in early August 2009, that Scientists can map an entire human genome for less than $50,000. That is down from a cost of about $300 million in about a decade. This is exciting. They are heading to a cost of $1000. The implications to mankind, let alone medicine and the ability to cure diseases are staggering.
The benefits to preventing an curing disease are too numerous to mention. Therapies that are not even conceivable right now will be developed to cure diseases and conditions that were previously debilitating or terminal. The promise is huge.
Ethical, legal and Social Issues
Of course the subtext of this type of technology and advancements such as this are how they will be used and who will have access to the information. It creates a complicated web of questions generations of people will have to struggle with. For instance, if we have the genetic information of a person what are the legal and ethical uses for that information.
It can intertwine with a number of already complicated social issues. Now let's take on a biggie right now. Back in 2008, then President Bush signed an act that will not allow insurers or employers discriminate based on genetic information. This was a recognition that there could be misuse of this type of information.
However there are a couple of things to think about here;
- First, it only prohibits health insurers and employers from using this in formation. What about if the government is the insurer like for military personnel? How about for simple things like getting a drivers license if a person is genetically predisposed to epilepsy but symptoms are not yet apparent.
- Next Discrimination works both ways, what if someone has genetics that say he or she will be much healthier than the normal person. Why wouldn't they want to use that information to get better rates? Why not sue to get better rates if you have that ability?
- It does not prohibit parents/schools/doctors/legal establishments from using the information.
- Imagine the uproar when it is proposed that babies be aborted because they are genetically predisposed to a condition or disease. I believe we are all God's children so this makes me crazy. Whether you believe as I do or not, you would have to agree that this would ignite a debate like we have never seen.
The fact is this will be a multi-generational struggle.
Sadly,the history of mankind is littered with examples where man can not resist the temptation to 'play God'. It never turns out well. Hopefully, we can put limits on how to use this technology but there are destined to be pitfalls along the way.
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