The Genetic Revolution: Ethical Issues
Ernlé W.D. Young, Ph.D.
In this overview of the many ethical issues that have been generated by the genetic revolution, I will touch on four main topics: genetic testing; genetic therapies, and their potential use for "enhancement" purposes; germ line eugenics, whether negative or positive; and cloning.
1. Genetic Testing:
- Who should be tested?
- Under what conditions should the results of tests be conveyed?
- Should children be tested for genetic predispositions?
- The possibility of discrimination--in insurance and employment
- Where there is an environmental stimulus that activates a genetic predisposition to a disease, but it is not yet known, could providing genetic information alone cause more harm than good?
2. Genetic therapies, and their potential use for "enhancement" purposes:
- In principle, no serious objection to somatic cell genetic therapy
- Somatic cell therapy does raise one troubling ethical issue: its potential for purposes of "enhancement."
3. Germ line eugenics--whether negative or positive:
- Negative eugenics may be acceptable for the treatment of truly serious diseases (for which some use the term, maladies)
- Positive eugenics is generally thought to be unacceptable.
- All is not lost
- Failed experiments