Genetic testing/Genetic Screening - Essay Example

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Alteration and Screening Ethical Issues
Man is at a predisposition to alter, replace or improve any faults or limitations in the material as well as the biological world.With advancements in molecular biology and genetics, man has acquired the power to change the genetic characteristics of living beings. …
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Genetic testing/Genetic Screening
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Prenatal Genetic Alteration and Screening –Ethical Issues by Prenatal Genetic Alteration and ScreeningEthical Issues Man is at a predisposition to alter, replace or improve any faults or limitations in the material as well as the biological world. With advancements in molecular biology and genetics, man has acquired the power to change the genetic characteristics of living beings. GenEthics, was thus born, with controversies and ethical debates as to whether man can “play god”. Just because the technology exists, should it be used to alter nature? Can man estimate the far-reaching consequences that a single alteration or addition of a gene may herald? These are some of the dilemmas faced not only by scientists, physicians, and policy makers, but also by every other human on the planet. Prenatal genetic testing Prenatal genetic testing and screening is performed to establish whether the fetus has any chromosomal abnormalities and whether or not there is a chance of developing a genetic disease later on. Parents can make well informed decisions on whether they wish to continue with the pregnancy or not. It involves harvesting of fetal tissue to analyze DNA for prediction of a disease risk or genetic abnormalities. Amniocentesis and Chorionic Villous Sampling are techniques through which fetal tissue is harvested for genetic testing. Amniocentesis involves harvesting of amniotic fluid from the amniotic membrane. Through karyotyping, chromosomal abnormalities can be detected. An ultrasound is first performed to locate an appropriate part of the amniotic membrane from which, the fluid is to be harvested. The skin over the spot is cleaned and a needle is inserted into the the amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid is collected and sent for karyotyping (‘Amniocentesis Test’). While these techniques have enabled those who are genetically predisposed to diseases to take the decision to continue a pregnancy if the child is diagnosed with a defect, it has also given rise to an illegal trend of sex selection. In most developing countries, cases of female feticides have been reported. Since genetic screening procedures reveal the sex of the child, parents are bound to exercise their preferences. Gates (1993) writes that gene testing “provides an opportunity for third parties to become involved in what are usually considered private matters” (p. 391). Women tend to go for abortions of a girl child due to pressure from family members. “An increasing number of couples with no sons use amniocentesis when the wife is pregnant to determine the sex of the fetus and to have an abortion performed if the fetus is female” (Freedman, Chang and Sun, 1994. Such a sex selective trend has distorted the sex ratio. Another ethical dilemma is whether parents have the right to terminate a pregnancy on the notion that their child “may have” a genetic disease. Since genetic tests are merely diagnostic, parents do not have the right to take a life based on mere risk predictions. Prospective Prenatal gene therapy Gene therapy involves the replacement of a mutated or disease causing gene, inactivation of a mutated gene or the introduction of a new gene in the body. Gene therapy involves the use of virus vectors to transfer a desired gene into an individual. There are many techniques of gene therapy. In the somatic ex-vivo type, cells are modified outside the body. The patient’s blood/bone marrow samples are grown in the laboratory and exposed to a virus carrying the desired gene. The cells are infected with the virus, which inserts the desired gene into the human DNA. These cells are cultured in the laboratory after which they are injected back into the patient’s body (‘Types of Gene Therapy’). The main ethical consideration in this aspect is whether its good and bad uses can be properly addressed by policy makers. Another dilemma is that this form of technology is very close to “human engineering”, and humans are not yet “far sighted” so as to estimate the implications of such an intervention. If all humans would like to have “designer babies” with the best physical appearances and traits, it would be impossible to limit the extent of their greed. There are chances of using gene therapy to enhance mental and physical skills, which will prove unfair for those who do not have access to the technology. Creating a perfect human race would become an obsession. . In conclusion, it can be stated that no matter what the technological status of man be, understanding the consequences of such interventions is far beyond human comprehension. Ethical dilemmas related to genetic and molecular techniques will continue to abound. Meanwhile, policy makers will have to be ready to address any ethical issues that may arrive in the future. References ‘Amniocentesis’, n.d. Retrieved July 29, 2011 from Freedman, R., Chang, M.C. & Sun, T.H., 1994. Taiwan?s transition from high fertility to below-replacement levels. Studies in Family Planning, 25(6 Pt 1), p.317-331. Gates, E.A., 1993. Ethical considerations in prenatal diagnosis. The Western journal of medicine, 159(3), p.391-395. ‘Types of Gene Therapy’, n.d. Retrieved July 29, 2011 from Read More
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