10 January 2013

The Dangers of Genetic Information

If you come to my "opening act" BIFHSGO presentation "What's New in Genetic Genealogy" this Saturday at 9 am you will hear brief mention of DNA testing for health. I already have more genealogy-related material for that talk than time permits so won't dwell on health. In any event an article in Slate Magazine, It’s Time To Stop Obsessing About the Dangers of Genetic Information, expresses my views based on my own experience, and better than if I could by devoting the whole presentation.

As the sub-head to the article says "People are smarter and more resilient than ethics debates give them credit for." It puzzles me that some DNA testing companies go out of their way to examine only DNA which is not relevant to health, or believed not relevant. Understanding is developing so fast that who knows what new discoveries may reveal about DNA previously thought to have no medical relevance. If there are ethical issues better to deal with them, not attempting to cram the gene genie back in the bottle.


Paul Jones said...

I agree, John, but then there is the insurance angle. Even if you inadvertently discover a propensity to a medical condition, you risk being denied future coverage, which rather undercuts the whole purpose of having bought insurance in the first place. And if I have such knowledge, I'm legally bound to tell my insurance company. So maybe it's best that I--and they--don't know.

JDR said...

For many of us seniors acquiring new health insurance isn't an issue. I also doubt that such a test would stand up in court when there's no assurance of the sample integrity, who really gave it and was it properly handled.