- Nov. 24, 2020
-- Genetic testing can provide information about individuals' health by looking for mutations in DNA. The results may empower people to seek treatment, adopt healthier habits, and better prepare them for the future.
A large portion (https://www.mayoclinic.org/
of testing determines individuals' risk for having, developing, or being a carrier of a genetic disorder. Depending on the reasons for the test (https://www.mayoclinic.org/
, the results are used differently. A positive diagnostic test may mean starting a treatment plan. A carrier test may be useful before having children.
Another type of testing used in family planning is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This looks for markers of diseases and disorders in an embryo. PGD has been at the center of much controversy
especially for those that believe life begins at fertilization. However, U.S. laws and health policy do not confirm this belief as they progressively place greater moral status on embryos, fetuses, and newborns as they develop.
Opponents also object to this type of genetic testing believing it will lessen genetic diversity (https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/preimplantat...
). Advocates for those with disabilities add selection discriminates against those with disabilities. Those against PGD argue parents will begin selecting based not just on "health" but preferences for things such as appearance, "talent, personality...even though it is not technically possible at this time."
Discrimination based on genetic testing was a real concern before the passing of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) in 2008. The law focuses on protecting people in employment and health insurance. But one article in the Oxford Academic Journal of Law and the Biosciences (https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/...
) explores how more accurate and precise testing may lessen protections in both areas. Empathy has proven to be an essential skill (https://ultrahealthagency.com/
healthcare/) in healthcare professions. Medical schools and hospitals could look at results before admitting students and residents. But, tests may also work against people predicting liabilities rather than assets. In high-risk situations such as driving a school bus or flying planes, employers "may have a legitimate interest (https://academic.oup.com/
in genetic factors that would, hypothetically, significantly increase the chance of suffering an epileptic attack."
Some may argue those with genetic conditions use healthcare services more and therefore should contribute more to the cost (https://academic.oup.com/
. This system would punish people for something outside their control based on possibly inaccurate results. Furthermore, despite certain, outdated arguments (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
PMC1126951/) against, healthcare is a basic human right. Putting barriers to care will not create a healthier society, it will only push those that cannot access care further from the help they need.
Currently, genetic information is protected. While there is room for error, testing provides useful information. Knowing family history can encourage preventative actions. Since some of these conditions are multifactorial, environmental improvements and lifestyle changes can have a positive effect.