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Ethical Controversies in Genetics

by David N. Finegold, MD

With new genetic diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities come many controversies about how they should be used. For example, there are concerns that genetic information might be used improperly to discriminate (eg, by denying health insurance coverage or employment) against people with genetic risk factors for particular disorders. Issues include the privacy of a person’s own genetic information and the question of whether testing should be compulsory.

Prenatal screening for genetic abnormalities that cause serious disorders is widely supported; however, there is concern that screening could also be used to select for traits that are aesthetically desirable (eg, physical appearance, intelligence).

Cloning is highly controversial. Animal studies suggest cloning is much more likely than natural methods to result in defects that are lethal or cause serious health problems. Creating a human by cloning is widely seen as unethical, is usually illegal, and is technically difficult.

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