Genetic testing is a medical test that looks for differences in genetic material, whether it is a whole chromosome abnormalities or specific genes. A genetic disorder is caused by a mutation in a gene, extra copies of chromosomes, or deletions or additions of genes on a chromosome. Mutations can occur at random or from some environmental exposure (chemicals, bacteria, viruses, radiation), while others are inherited. It is currently believed that disorders are a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
At this time genetic testing is generally used to find differences that are associated with hereditary diseases. These tests are used to rule or confirm the presence of a suspected health condition based on family history and / or diagnosis by a physician to determine a person’s chance of developing that disease and / or passing it off to their offspring. There are over 900 genetic tests currently available and more are being developed. In fact, you can buy kits and test yourself in the privacy of your own home. genetic testing, However, is a minefield of emotional, legal, religious and ethical issues. How will you cope if you find that Alzheimer’s beckons? It is one thing to test for something that is curable, quite another for something that has no known cure. On the other hand, a positive testing for a condition empowers you with the knowledge to take some preventative action that might delay the onset or at least reduce its severity (since the environment, including diet, often plays a role in mutation that is something you can control). Other questions include: do you have the right, if the knowledge is out there, to pass on a severe genetic disorder to your offspring? on the issue of privacy and disclosure, does a life insurance company have the right to know? And perhaps the biggest question of all is – given that scientists can now manipulate genes to clone sheep and pigs, do they have the right to play God? Would a cloned human-being have a soul? on the other hand, if the genome can be manipulated to get rid of all diseases is this not a worthy and morally legitimate thing to do? despite this complex debate, gene therapy is here to stay. The question then remains will gene therapy make the great leap from individual cases of treatment of whole generations by manipulation of embryos to be disease free and nearer to ‘ perfect ’?
• Think carefully about whether you can handle a...