Describe and Discuss a Specific Science and Technology Public Controversy Essay
Genetic screening uses a variety of laboratory procedures to find out if a person has a genetic condition or disorder or is likely to develop a disease based on his or her genetic make-up. Many people choose to have these tests if there family history involves diseases such as breast cancer of Huntington’s disease. However one of the latest controversies within society is that of prenatal genetic testing. Some believe that prenatal genetic testing has great potential for our society.
They believe that it has the capability of improving and lengthening human life. If it is used properly, genetic testing can eliminate unforeseen suffering and distress. On the other hand some fear that will lead to the abortion of pregnancies of fetuses with ASD, Down-Syndrome etc. , with the end result being the elimination of children with special needs. This leads to the suggestion that people with mental or physical disabilities serve no use in our society which is not true.
As such people opposed to genetic pre-natal screening are against the development of such tests and are campaigning to oppose their use (Parker, 2006). An understanding of genetic irregularities is valuable in its own right, leading to a greater understanding, better and earlier diagnosis and interventions, and amelioration of the negative consequences of those genetic irregularities. The main argument used by those opposing prenatal diagnosis is that if a deficiency was discovered in a fetuse, that it could lead to mass abortions. This is a defeatist’s attitude towards humanity.
Rather than attempting to deny parents of a test that is going to be introduced into society eventually, or deny them their legal right to choose because we might not like the way they exercise it, we should concentrate on promoting hope and likelihood of a better outcome, showing them that children born with autism, down-syndrome or other disabilities can live a happy and successful life (Parker, 2006). Throughout the course of this essay I am going to be discussing both positive and negative consequences of genetic screening and prenatal testing.
I will explore the real and conceivable controversies around the issue, discussing what’s at stake in society and the idea of the perfect child. I will be discussing ethics, morals and values and how the rise of health social movements brings a grey area to the questions that were once so simple to answer. The modern conception of parenthood has raised our stake in having children without major flaws. Most of us living in today’s society will have fewer children than earlier families. We will want each of our children to do well, be happy and become successful in their lives.
We take moral relationship with each of our children with increasing seriousness. This is mostly to the good I believe. But it does mean that we may be less willing to have a child whose care may become a burden, or whose life may be marked by more difficulties than one would have wished (Murray, 1996). We have to draw a line on the boundaries around prenatal diagnosis. Can we decide what limits if any, to place on perspective parents access to genetic information or are we denying them their right to information about a part of their body? However from a medical perspective, congenital abnormalities account for 20-25% of prenatal deaths.
Now many genetic and other disorders can be diagnosed early in pregnancy and prevented (Medscape. com, 2011). So prenatal diagnosis has both the potential to save the life of a child and eliminate a foetus. The ethics behind prenatal testing are far from clear. Yet these tests can still be used ethically and beneficially. In the vast majority of cases prenatal testing relieves anxiety, since most babies are healthy. Further-more being warned of your child’s birth defect can be very helpful. It gives the parents time to organise things to meet the child’s particular needs.
It also gives the parents a chance to grieve before the child is born, allowing them free to bond once he/she is born. If you are aware that your child has a severe problem, you can also arrange to give birth in a hospital with medical specialists in attendance. Nevertheless there are some significant drawbacks to prenatal testing. There is incorrect diagnosis which could save much anxiety and also there is the pressure to abort put on the mother. If we take ethics out of the equation of prenatal testing, many of these options of prenatal diagnosis are being used and benefitted from by amiable couples, wishing to have healthy children.
However opponents of the genetic tests are not giving up without a fight. Many of these people believe whole-heartedly in the preservation in human life, and until we come up with cures for all genetic diseases, terminating the lives of inflicted foetuses will remain prevalent in our society. This also brings into light the issue of eugenics, including using abortions as a means of eradicating a disease and eliminating an entire population that did not fit into society’s criteria for an ideal community (Arc. org, 1997).
It is also said that eye colour, hair colour and other physical characteristics will eventually obtainable. Will we as a society emerge into a type of supremacy in which those with bad genes will be scorned? While there are opponents to the use of these tests, more people tend to be in favour of them. Prenatal testing and selective abortion to avoid genetic impaired children is widely accepted in the United States of America. It was determined that 79% of Americans believe that abortions should be available to foetuses with severe abnormalities (Botkin, 1995).
Some believe that the birth of a child with severe genetic disorder may bring the mother and family distress, psychological harm, emotional harm and suffering, loss of opportunities, loss of freedom, isolation and financial expenses (Morejon, 1996). Regardless of ethics morals or values, the result of prenatal testing always has the same outcome of a life and death decision. Life and death decisions are being made because of these tests. People are choosing to abort for conditions with no clear cut outcome.
For example sex chromosome abnormalities are detected in about 3% of cases, and in one study 60% of such babies were aborted. Yet though some of these babies would have suffered infertility and behavioural problems, nearly all would have had a normal life span. Because a lot of people don’t understand what most of these diagnoses mean and automatically think the worst, when parents are confronted by these choices, most abort (Gregoire, 2009). Parents often feel pressure from family and friends, society and their physicians to abort. The life of a disabled person, it seems is simply not worth living.
Prenatal testing in today’s society seems to be an instrument for deciding who has the right to live and who does not. This is a slippery slope indeed, in which we judge people on something they have no control over. According to Francis Collins, Director of The National Centre for Human Genome Research, all of humanity carry most likely four or five really fouled up genes and another couple of dozen that are not good and place us at risk for something when we are older (Arc. org, 1997). If this is true, everybody is genetically impaired and could be subject to discrimination.
It brings to mind the question, if this technology was available around the time of our births, would many of today’s people of been aborted because of their risk of being born with a genetic disorder? With rapid advances in scientific knowledge of human genome and our increasing ability to modify and change genes, the scenario of creating/designing your baby could well be possible in the near future. You will be able to choose brown hair or blonde hair; you will be able to choose short or tall, funny or clever, girl or boy. You can choose if you want them to be musical, sporty or a book worm.
The concerns expressed by critics are along the lines of at what point do we lose all humanity and become nothing more than a set of genes and chromosomes? Many people worry that this is like the Nazis weeding out the weak and inferior or that it will result in a two tiered society of the genetically privileged and the under-privileged as in Gautama. This is why I believe our efforts are being miss-placed. We should be focusing on testing for genes that make our children’s lives go predictably better (Practical Ethics, 2011). Our society is entering an era where science fiction is rapidly becoming fact.
We must become more educated with each advance in research. The amount of information discovered in our lifetimes alone will over shadow any past advances in science. We are on the brink of a new world in which certain diseases will become treatable and eradicated. In this era of research, it is necessary for people to become informed. Ignorance quickly spreads fear and it is up to the scientific literate in society to educate those around them. If we remember the outcry of concerns that arose when Dolly, the first genetically cloned sheep was born.
The demand for a halt to this type of research was cried out for, in the fear that people would begin cloning themselves (ornl. gov, 2007). My personal opinion agrees with the majority of the population. Although in an ideal world the scenario would be carrier screening for all couples before conception, I believe in the use of prenatal tests to determine severe abnormalities in foetus. I would never want to subject any child to a disease which the consequences are severe and detrimental. To me, benefits far out weight the costs of bringing a helpless baby, who may end up with a serious and fatal life in this world.
Until we can intervene with an effective treatment, I believe testing is necessary. However my outlook for the future is optimistic. I believe we will be able to cure diseases that now are described as incurable and the lives of humans will improve greatly. The ultimate question is if genetic testing is available to the public, should there be limits of genetic information available to parents? There are some disorders that rapidly darken and ultimately shroud the lives of all children born with them. There are other disorders that impose severe burdens both on the children and the parents.
Conditions such as these are much more than merely arbitrary matters of distaste, they can profoundly affect the possibilities that the child, its parents, or its siblings will have any chance to flourish. Furthermore seeking to avoid the experience of raising disabled children is no crime or callus, selfish statement as some may claim. It is an honest, understandable response to the fear that a disabled child will not be able to fulfil what many women seek in mothering, to give to a new being the best we can give, and who will enrich us, gladden others, contribute to the world and make us proud (Gregoire, 2009).
All of these discussions and debates ultimately stems from The Human Genome Project. This project is an international effort to map and sequence all the genes of the human cell. This project has allocated a large amount of its funds to the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic research. These efforts have produced a widely accepted set of principles to guard against genetic discrimination, insuring quality in DNA labs, educating doctors in the use of genetic data and guiding researches on obtaining informed consent.
In conclusion the ultimate question is do we eliminate the most extensive technology ever known to man or do we do our best to improve it on the mistakes we made and create a better world for the future? In order to improve on anything a risk must be taken. References •Parker, I. (2006). “Shades of Grey: Thoughts on Prenatal Genetic Testing”. Available at www. a-shade-of-grey. blogspot. com/2006/07/thoughts-on-prenatal-genetic-testing. html. Accessed on the 11-12-2011. •Murray, T. (1996). “The worth of a child”.
University of California Press: California. •Medscape. com, (2011). “Prenatal Diagnosis for Congenital Malformations and Genetic Disorders”. Available at http://emedicine. medscape. com/article/1200683-overview. Accessed on the 12-12-2011. •Gregoire, S. (2009). “To Test or Not to Test” Available at http://sheilawraygregoire. com/totestornottotestprenataltestingp14. php. Accessed on the 12-12-2011. •Arc. org, (1997). “Genetic Discrimination”. Available at www. the. arc. org/depts/gbr03. html. Accessed on the 12-12-2011. •Botkin, J, (1995). Federal Privacy and Confidentiality”. Hastings Centre Report: Hastings. •Morejon, D. (1996) “Commentary” Hastings Centre Report: Hastings. •Practical Ethics, (2011). “Preimplantation Genetic Screening: One Step Closer to the Perfect Baby”. Available athttp://blog. practicalethics. ox. ac. uk/2008/10/preimplantation-genetic-screening-one-step-closer-to-the-perfect-baby/. Accessed on the 13-12-2011. •Ornl. gov, (2007). “Tech Resources”. Available at www. ornl. gov/techresources/human_genome/public/hgn/v8n3/07/press. html. Accessed on the 14-12-2011.