Sunday, October 28, 2012

Misuse of DNA Data

Examining a few hairs of the head  to  predict the  future of a child and the parent's disposition to disease would make life a  great deal easier, a professor begins his article in the Catholic Times, Even if we did not start off with the best mental and physical equipment, we would be able to attain long life and success. All thanks to the genetic information now available. But is this really the case? the professor asks.

We all would like to know what the future holds for us. Isn't this the reason one reads books on fortune telling, casts horoscopes, analyzes a person's face, and the like. The advances made in genetic science has given hope to some, that with the study of the genes we will be able to foresee the future, and by comparing and analyzing the gene map, we will come to know the  height, personality, capabilities and possibilities of disease.

All these possibilities, however, carry potential dangers. Muscular dystrophy, as well as 139 other genetic disorders  can be predicted in the embryonic and fetus stage. The possibilities of treatment are minimal so most of the unhappiness results in abortions, which the present Child Health Law allows.

The DNA Act and the Punishment of Violence Act, enacted a few years ago, allow collecting DNA from suspects of habitual and heinous crimes in order to diminish the number of these crimes. But the professor says these laws can be misused, as they were recently, following a labor dispute and a controversial government policy. Those who used work strikes to make their points in labor disputes, and those who were demonstrating against the government were arrested, and the courts had no problem with allowing the collection of  DNA from some of the striking workers and the anti-government demonstrators.  But they are not violent criminals, the writer points out, and should not  be considered habitual offenders.

Collecting DNA from an individual brands the person as a sick member of society, and discrimination against the person usually follows. He mentions that the eugenics movement of the United States tried to prevent bad genes from increasing in society. A great deal of money went into the movement and a great many things were done that are embarrassing to remember: limiting emigration and forcing sterilization. It was later realized that the genetic information does not determine a person's ability or future.

He concludes the article with a question: what is to be done with DNA testing? It's an important issue requiring serous thought. Hopefully, many will be part of the discussion.

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