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Ethical Controversies in Genetics

By David N. Finegold, MD, Professor, Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh

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With the new genetic diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities come many controversies about how they should be used. Concerns have been raised that knowledge of a person’s genetic information might be used improperly. For instance, people whose genetic characteristics make them prone to particular disorders might be denied employment or health insurance coverage.

Prenatal screening for genetic abnormalities that cause serious disorders is widely supported. However, concern exists that screening could also be used to select for traits that are desirable (for example, physical appearance and intelligence).

Cloning (see Cloning) of humans is highly controversial. Creating a human being by cloning is still technically impossible. Animal studies suggest it is much more likely than natural methods to result in severe defects that are lethal or cause serious health problems. Creating a human by cloning is widely seen as unethical and is usually illegal.

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