Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Eugenics Coming Back?

The article "Is Eugenics Coming Back?" addresses the fine line between the Eugenics that society has accepted as horrific and inhumane and the kind that may prevent horrors from happening. It poses questions like, "Is it considered eugenics to genetically test for birth defects and abort sick babies before they are born into a life of suffering?"  

The National Institute of Health considers creating a Genetic Testing Registry. All the Genetic Testing Registry suggests to do is to improve access to information about the availability, validity, and usefulness of genetic tests. There is a problem that the Genetic Testing Registry wants to fix. There are so many genetic tests offered but no central source of information about them. That sounds useful and in fact far from eugenics. This would simply help with the accuracy and quality of the different available tests (though the test information would be provided by the different sources). However, no personal information about citizens would be in the Genetic Testing Registry making it unclear why so many people worry that this is the first step towards a future of eugenics. 

So many people still distrust genetic research and tests. Others worry that they are trusted too much and therefore will be used excessively to determine everything. The Genetic Alliance's motto is "transforming health through genetics" which some people argue is exactly what eugenics is all about. 

Many intellectuals think that what geneticists and the National Institute of Health are doing is clearly eugenics, but since it is now being done on a molecular level and not through breeding, it is going unnoticed. There simply can't be a gene for everything that can be taken out or modified. Thus, many think that those who try are practicing eugenics. Pure and simple. 
Clearly, after what took place during World War II and much of the last century, people are terrified to intervene or "try to play God". They distrust others who promise that genetic testing is different. Isn't it worse for a child to be born into a life of pain than not to be born at all? Apparently, there are too many fine lines. What if someone crosses over and decides that suddenly being born with the "asthma gene" is worse than not being born at all? Is there proof that such a gene even exits or that the testing for it is valid? And next people will go on to aborting babies based on preferences in potential intellect or physical appearance. It is already common for people to prenatally test for down syndrome and abort the fetus based on that. Is that eugenics? What if the Genetic Testing Registry does start holding a record of people's test results and what if those become available to the government? Next thing we know, people think their health insurance rates will become based on the test results. Far fetched, yes. But people are better safe than sorry. 
The movie, Gattaca, addresses similar issues. In the film, all babies are born In Vitro after specific embryos are chosen based on gender, as well as physical and intellectual attributes. Everything about a babies' predispositions to different ailments is seen in a blood sample right after birth. The main character is not born in vitro, and thus is treated like a lesser being and is barred from normal schools and jobs because he is considered too weak and a burden. 
Prior to reading this article, I had a pretty strong opinion that certain tests should be done and aborting a child who would otherwise we born to suffer is the right thing to do. Although, I still think so, I now understand the paranoia of the public a lot better. It is hard to determine what kind of testing is acceptable and the medical laws are not ready to address all the arising issues and questions. The Genetic Testing Registry is certainly a good idea but anything further than that could cause issues in today's society. However, we haven't had issues so far. Medical records are kept private and people aren't forced (by the government or health organizations) to abort children with certain defects or disabilities. That is the fine line, I believe. The free will is the key to a practice like this not becoming the type of eugenics we're all afraid of. 
Also, we don't see people who are living with health problems or genetic defects lose the government's support. In fact there are more people being sent disability checks from the government every month than ever before in US history. 
There certainly need to be some rules set, but I think what is currently taking place is more beneficial than harmful for society and humanity as a whole. 

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