The Ethical Considerations of Genetic Screening

opinionated Essay
2190 words
2190 words

Ever since Watson and Crick deciphered the biological code of life, scientists have been busy unraveling the mysteries of life. A recent development in the area of genetic research has been the Human Genome Project (HGP). The HGP is a massive international effort to map and sequence the entire human genetic code. The primary goal of this research is to link certain diseases with abnormal genes that may be possessed by certain people. This would allow researchers the ability to screen individuals for certain diseases. This has already been a success with a number of conditions. PKU is a condition that causes severe retardation in children if nothing is done to prevent it, but by genetically screening the infants, doctors are able to tell who has the disease (Davis 1990). By simply altering the diet of these children, the mental retardation effects of the disease can be prevented. In addition, diseases such as Huntington’s disease, breast cancer, and muscular dystrophy are presently being screened for in humans (Jaroff, 1996). How researchers are able to screen for genes New developments have given researchers the ability to decipher the genetic code of organisms. Some of the techniques that researchers use are RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) analysis and DNA probes. RFLP analysis utilizes enzymes from bacteria that are thought to be used as defense mechanisms against invading viral DNA. The enzymes fragment foreign DNA at specific locations depending on the base sequence (Griffiths, 1996). In order to analyze an organism’s genome a researcher will add a certain restriction enzyme to DNA. This produces small restriction fragments of DNA that vary in length. Electrophoresis is then used to separate out the various fragments of DNA. This is accomplished by subjecting the fragmented DNA to an electrical charge after it has been placed onto an agarose gel plate. Due to differences in length, the DNA restriction fragments will be separated in the gel plate. Another useful tool for scientists has been the DNA probe. A DNA probe is a piece of DNA that binds to certain sequences of the hosts DNA (Devore, 1998). The probe is able to do this because the DNA strand of the probe only binds to the appropriate DNA with a complementary sequence. Scientists label the probe with florescent markers or radioactive markers so that the gene of interest can be visualized. Often probes are used in conjunction with RFLP. After the organisms genome has been fragmented and electrophoresed, an absorbent membrane is placed over the gel and the DNA bands are "blotted" onto the membrane (this technique is called Southern Blotting).

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the human genome project (hgp) is a massive international effort to map and sequence the entire human genetic code.
  • Explains how researchers can decipher the genetic code of organisms using rflp analysis and dna probes.
  • Explains the use of a dna probe, which binds to certain sequences of the host's dna. scientists label the probe with florescent markers or radioactive markers to visualize the gene.
  • Describes the four situations where the ethics of genetic screening come into play.
  • Explains fetal screening involves taking tissues from a fetus inside the mother’s womb and screening for genetic abnormalities. the first condition, pku, is tested for because early detection and treatment prevents the onset of sever retardation.
  • Explains that in vitro fertilization technology allows doctors to fertilize a human egg outside the mother. cells from the early zygote can be pulled off and screened for genetic abnormalities.
  • Explains that neonatal screening is similar to fetal screening in that the purpose is to identify genetic abnormalities in which an early treatment could prevent the symptoms of the disease.
  • Explains that testing for economic reasons is different from previous subjects in that it would not benefit the individual in any way. genetic information would be used by insurance companies and employers in order to make a profit.
  • Argues that genetic screening would lead to discrimination of individuals, which possess "inferior" genes, and reproductive decisions being based on the genetics of their child.
  • Opines that people fear that genetic screening will change the way humans reproduce, and that they would be messing with god's creation and nature.
  • Argues that by screening for genetic abnormalities, doctors can prescribe an early treatment that would allow the person to live a longer, more productive life.
  • Argues that genetic engineering will be the procedure that will follow genetic screening. molecular genetics promises a greater understanding of how genetic factors influence disease.
  • Opines that genetic screening is a narrow minded approach to the situation. galileo was thrown in jail and forced to recant for his sins because he discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe.
  • Opines that genetic screening will be a great tool of the future and will lead to the elimination of numerous diseases.
  • Opines that there are certain protections that will have to be provided for people though. they state governments are instituting laws against employers and insurance companies using genetic information for employment or insurance purposes.
  • Cites joel davis' mapping the code: the human genome project and the choices of modern science. devore, d. genetic screening and ethics an overview.
  • Explains griffiths, miller, lewontin, and gelbart, w. m. an introduction to genetic analysis. sixth edition.
  • Explains jaroff, leon, and schupf, n. "health law and ethics." american journal of public health. september 1995.
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