Shades of Gray

Genetic Discrimination

Posted in General by Wayland Abernathy III on February 18, 2012


Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s were recently discussed in my Science class. As I am known to do on occasion, I started thinking. My mind moved directly into human genetics and how science has rapidly progressed in this field of study. I know little about the scientific applications of studying genetics. I simply am curious about the ramifications of unintended consequences due to past – and continuing – study of human genes. I know that genetic discrimination has already reared its head. The fruits of human genetics are trickling down to everyday people, and with them come an array of new challenges. Expectant parents can now peek into the life of their unborn child, since it is possible to ascertain a fetus’s genetic makeup. As a consequence, some may choose to abort a fetus that may have a predisposition for disabilities or diseases.

Furthermore, as heredity is better understood, insurance companies also become better informed. There are clear benefits to unlocking secrets with genetics, but if those secrets end up with employers and insurance companies, there could be major problems. Insurance companies have been known to cancel or refuse coverage to those that have been found to have an inheritable disease. The more widespread genetic study becomes, the easier it is for insurance companies to access this information and plan ­accordingly. The bottom line is companies want to make a profit, and insuring sick people is not how they will do it.

Genetic screening is a powerful technique that can aid the fight against disease and accurately predict heredity. However, it must be used with extreme caution. New testing, combined with today’s technologies, makes it easy to discern a person’s ­inheritable structure. With this new and vast power, scientists need to ­recognize the enormous ­responsibility they now have.