Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stop!...Ethics and Genetic Testing - My Opinion

Image from Microsoft Clipart.

If you've read my blog for a long time or followed me on Twitter or Pinterest you will know that  my Catholic faith is very important to me and permeates every aspect of my life. With this in mind, please read on.

If you have not already, I recommend that you read the most recent post on Roberta Estes' DNAeXplained blog - 23andMe Patents Technology for Designer Babies.

Thankfully (and I'm grateful to God for helping me with this) I am not a 23andMe customer. Little hints in previous blog posts from 23andMe made me suspect something like this was around the corner.

I wrote the following a few months ago and was intending to place it on my genealogy blog. I wanted to let readers know that while I like genetic genealogy and I think science is wonderful when used for good, I absolutely object to any unethical, selfish and discriminatory use of genetic technology (and technology in general).
Dear Reader,The following is my personal opinion and I thank you for taking the time to read it. I am very interested in genetic genealogy. However, there are aspects of genetic technologies to which I ethically and morally object e.g. 1. screening of unborn infants which results in discrimination (and often death) for children based on their genetics (their gender, race, disability etc.), 2. cloning, 3. 'designer babies', 4. genetic modification of organisms, 5. the patenting of genes. I want to make sure that readers of my blog know that I have these ethical objectionsI chose to test with FTDNA because I understand they are specifically focused on genetic genealogy. If you are interested in genetic genealogy and you have the same ethical and moral objections that I have, make sure you read about the company you are potentially testing with. Don't just go with the company with the best price. I have read a blog post from the other major company involved in genetic genealogy testing which appeared to imply support for future genetic technology that would allow 'prospective parents' ('if current trends continue') to not only predict medical conditions their unborn child may have, but to 'obtain a rough prediction of traits such as future eye color' of their child. Perhaps I am wrong, but this sounds like 'designer babies'. I would not want to be involved in any health research with that company. If you have any reason to believe that by taking a genetic genealogy test with FTDNA that I am in any way associating myself with such 'research', please let me know. 
No, unfortunately I wasn't wrong. The post I am referring to appeared on the 23andMe blog back  in November 2012: Noninvasive Sequencing of a Human Fetus.
I quote for that post (my emphasis added):
'As with traditional prenatal screening such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS), fetal sequencing can predict a serious medical condition. Fetal sequencing goes further, however, and may enable parents to obtain a rough prediction of traits such as the future eye color of the fetus. If current trends continue, some prospective parents will want such information, while others will prefer to wait until after the baby is born to learn about medical and non-medical conditions. The utility of this test and the decision to use it will depend a great deal on the test’s accuracy, which currently isn’t very high. But it’s clear that testing options for prospective parents will continue to grow in number and complexity'. 
Thank you for taking the time to read my opinions. If you are already a 23andMe customer, make sure you check Roberta Estes' blog (23andMe Patents Technology for Designer Babies) for ideas on what you should do now if you object to your genetic test contributing to this research.

God bless.
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