Genetics is a relatively new scientific frontier which is advancing rapidly. One obvious application of the new knowledge is treating or arresting the effects of genetic disorders. Currently it is possible to determine whether a fetus is suffering from genetic disorders. On the same line, it is possible for parents to determine their children’s fate in terms of behavioral characteristics which are determined by genetics. But the study of genetics faces many ethical, legal and social issues. This includes access to a person’s genetic information by third parties such as employers and insurance companies. Determination of health defects in fetus has been used as grounds for procuring abortions (Arnold & Self, 2012). It is possible the trend may be extended to fetus who are genetically identified to have a lower IQ or to be prone to developing incivilities. Should genetic information be made available, and if yes, should there be limits? In this essay, the ethical issues which arise in genetics are evaluated.
Ethical Issues in Genetics
Ethical dilemma arises when one has to choose equally bad options. For genetics, the two available options are whether to avail genetic information or not. Genetic information has wide application in medicine. When the cause of a disease is well understood, it is possible to develop cures and management procedures for a disease. In other cases, the genetic disease may not have a cure and genetic study at the fetus level may offer parents the options of abortion. For instance, when a baby is born with the Tay Sachs disease, the baby develops blindness, deafness, looses motor functions, experiences chronic pain and dies before 5 years (Wahington, 2012). The disease is devastating and has no cure; current management practices for the disease focus on keeping the baby comfortable as the symptoms take effect and kill gradually kill the child. To preempt this suffering and the psychological torture parents goes through because of the child’s suffering, it is better to avail genetic information to them before the child is born when an abortion is a viable option. This is because one of the goals of the health sector is to alleviate suffering. In the same view, I would allow a procedure to improve genetically defective eyesight in later years. Alleviating the symptoms of defective eyesight and preventing blindness improves a persons well being and enhances interaction with the environment.
Despite these positive and ethically correct applications of genetics, the availability of genetic information can lead to misuse. For instance, genetic information may lead to discrimination of people through actions such as paying higher insurance premiums (Feldman, 2012). The use of genetic information for purposes such as discrimination or procuring abortions for non medical reasons is unethical. Genetic technology can make it possible to enhance human abilities such as IQ. This is an extension of similar applications in plants such as genetically modified organisms which gives better yields and resists diseases and bad weather. I would not recommend similar applications in humans because it would lead to segregation in the society. For instance, people whose IQs were not enhanced in utero would be deemed to be lower class humans.
Genetics has both positive and negative applications. The ethical issues in genetics can be related to the core values of respect and responsible stewardship as advanced by Saint Leo. Valuing every person’s unique talents enhances harmony in the community while responsible stewardship enhances resource utilization including the diversity in human beings. Genetic manipulation in humans might lead to the attempt of creating super humans ant therefore lead to loss of human diversity.
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