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Chapter 39 : Analyzing Ethical Dilemmas in Genetic Testing
Genetic testing is usually thought of in the context of determining whether someone has a genetic disorder or is a carrier of a recessive disease gene, such as a gene mutation that leads to cystic fibrosis (CF). As society enters the new age of molecular genetics, it will be possible to test for more and more of the 3,000 to 4,000 genetic disorders physicians have identified in the past century. This chapter begins with background information and moves on to discussing the societal impacts of genetic testing. It presents two case studies, one of a 6-year-old girl whose mother carried the CF gene. The other study is of a 32-year-old lady whose mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (HD). Questions and assignments are provided for students in the chapter. A section is devoted to further information on genetic testing, which includes government policies and scientific research. It discusses the role, if any, of politicians in determining which paths of scientific inquiry are pursued and therefore which medical breakthroughs are most likely to occur. The focus is on embryonic stem (ES) cell research to describe some of the ways government bodies influence, which scientific questions are pursued and, therefore, which potential technological applications become commercial realities.