Genes, being part of the basic building blocks of man, control all aspects of one’s life. They control how tall you are, what color your eyes are, and what diseases might afflict you in the future. Therefore, the manipulation of such genes can be a controversial topic. The controversy most likely stems from the ethical and social questions that are raised by this procedure. Jean Dausset, author of “Scientific Knowledge and Human Dignity,” and George B. Kutukdjian, author of “UNESCO and Bioethics,” both discuss the topic of genetic manipulation.
Their main ocus concerns the applications of genetic manipulation, the limitations and equal opportunities of genetic manipulation, and how a person’s confidential information would be regulated. To understand this basics of genetic manipulation, one must first have a little background knowledge. “Genetics is the branch of biology that deals with heredity, especially the mechanisms of the hereditary transmission and variation of inherited characteristics.
Genes are the hereditary units of chromosomes that are located inside the DNA, which determine certain characteristics f an organism” (Encarta). The scientific alteration of the structure of genetic material in a living organism is called genetic engineering. Gene therapy is the insertion of a gene or genes into cells in order to provide a new set of instructions to those cells (Encarta). Gene therapy is actually a form of gene manipulation in itself because one is trying to control, or manipulate, the structure of a gene.
Gene therapy is used to correct a person’s genetic predisposition. Genetic predisposition is the identification of what diseases a person might be afflicted with in the future nd how or from what a person will die (Dausset 451). The application of genetic manipulation can be seen in two areas: genetic testing and predictive medicine. Genetic testing can be separated into two categories. The first should be to look for characteristics of genetic diseases which are hereditary. The second is used to show a person’s “predisposition to certain diseases” (Kutukdjian 453).
It is in genetic testing that the concept of gene therapy can play a role. The somatic type of gene therapy is considered to be an ethical one. Its main concern is focused toward the cells of the body (Dausset 450). On the other hand, the germ-line type is concerned with the reproductive cells or the embryos themselves, thus being considered unethical (Dausset 450). Dausset says, “The germ-line therapy must be strictly banned” (450). The second area of genetic testing is predictive medicine. Predictive medicine is, essentially, preventive medicine (Kutukdjian 453).
The main purpose for predictive medicine is start treatment for a disease that the patient does not have, but that he/she will possibly get in the future. That way the person will not get that disease, thus the doctors Although it does present some ethical questions, I believe that genetic testing, for the most part, is a good thing. It can do a great many good things for people, if it is used properly. Gene therapy is considered by many medical researchers to be the “ultimate solution to gene-based diseases” (Jaroff 24-6). Dr. W.
French Anderson, the director of the gene-therapy program at the University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, says, “virtually every disease will have gene therapy as one of its treatments” Along ith two colleagues, “Anderson performed the first federally approved gene therapy” (Jaroff 24-6). Predictive medicine is also a good thing. “Medicine is basically going to change from a treatment-based to a prevention-based discipline” (Jaroff 24-6). The ethical questions of whether or not genetic testing is good or not can be difficult to answer.
I believe that it is a good thing to an extent. It should be used to help treat or cure people with certain diseases, but it should not be used to change the entire genetic make-up of an unborn child. What will the limits be on genetic manipulation? Many people believe that is where the majority of the controversy lies. The obvious choice would be for the government to place limits on this medical practice and some research (Kutukdjian 453). The problem with that lies in the fact that the individual governments of the world differ greatly, and they would be unable to set equal limits (Kutukdjian 453).
Where will it all end? That is up to man. Ethics can vary from person to person, and no government can change the individual’s belief. The world is made up of many different types, or classes, of people. There are “third-world” ountries and developed countries. Equal opportunities for everyone to have access to these procedures is a big concern. All countries, including the least advanced ones, must be ensured of reaping the benefits from this process, so that they can help to cure or find ways to treat hereditary diseases (Kutudjian 454).
As I stated previously, a limit should be put on genetic testing to ensure equal opportunities. In order to correct diseases, genetic testing is a good thing, but to give an unborn child an unfair advantage, maybe, over child that are conceived in the way that God had ntended. Ultimately, man will decide where to stop. Since man is not always ethical, the final stop on this “genetic manipulation bus” will be the abandonment of sex for procreation. All children will most likely be created in a lab much like in the movie “Gattaca. Obviously, these procedures will be very expense, so the question of equal opportunities for everyone in the world comes into play. No matter how hard we try there is always something that will get in the way of equality. Therefore, I see a future much like that of the one in “Gattaca” where not veryone is genetically enhanced from birth. The final thing that should be considered is how the individual’s confidential medical information will be regulated. This is important because so insurance companies and employers may use this information in order to discriminate (Dausset 451).
Doctor/patient confidentiality should still be observed to prevent this kind of discrimination. Kutukdjian believes that surveys on “population genetics” (455)not should be used to discriminate against people that are predisposed to certain diseases. Also, they should not lead to the “establishment of a genetic seudoclassification of the population groups involved” (Kutukdjian 455). The controversy over whether this should be regulated as public or private information is also an important topic Doctor/patient confidentiality should still be a number one priority.
Even though employers and insurance companies would like to learn this information, it can lead to discrimination against their employees or clients. The same is true for public versus private information situations. People can be very discriminatory towards someone with a disease even if it can not be transmitted through casual contact. This information should definitely not be released to the public or it will cause social discrimination.
Indeed, genetic manipulation raises many ethical and social questions, such as man’s right to tread on God’s domain. If so, in what applications can it be used? What kinds of limitations should be put in place? And, how should this confidential information be regulated? As of now, there are no easy answers to these questions. Concerning the answers to these questions, Nobel laureate James Watson said, “We used to think our fate was in our stars. Now we know that, in large measure, our fate is in our genes” (Jaroff 24-6).