Nowadays, with the popularization of genetics screening, many issues and controversies also arise subsequently. Genetic screening, also known as genetic test, is the medical test carried out by geneticists that diagnose the chromosome to predict any potential disorder and inherited diseases, often followed by genetic counseling. Already the technology has become prevalent, research shows that by February 2018, more than 200 companies had been offering “Direct-To-Consumer” genetic testing (Credence Research, 2018).
Meanwhile, people may worry about issues regarding privacy and discrimination, for example, whether these for-profit companies may disclose their genetic information and cause discrimination by insurance companies and employers. It is not impossible to solve these problems, and whether it can be successful or not depends on the balance among government legislations, business and science. Generally, the commercialization of this technology is a win-win practice which should be encouraged under certain rules and principles, out of three reasons: the benefit it could bring to individual health, its contribution to the economic development, and its significance towards the human evolution.
Firstly, genetic testing helps individuals live a healthier life. Katherine Lerner, the assistant professor of Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine indicates in her article “Genetic Testing and Counseling” in 2013, that “genetic testing can find disorders in newborns that have long-term health effects”, and that “all infants in the United States are tested for certain metabolic diseases”. Through genetic counseling, people can develop a healthier lifestyle according to their potential risk of diseases to decrease the risk. Katherine also refers that “direct DNA tests are currently available to look for gene mutations identified and linked to several kinds of cancer”.
People with a family history of these cancers are to be tested. If mutations are found in tests, the person is more likely to develop the cancer. But the possibility of developing the cancer is still unknown because there are other environmental factors influencing the future results. Cancer susceptibility tests are valuable when the test result can be followed with according treatment options. Through pharmacogenetics, genetic counseling can make sure that people get an ideal amount and type of medication. Pharmacogenetics is the role of a person’s genetic makeup in their individual response to medicines.
The use of pharmacogenetics is rapidly increasing, particularly in HIV and cancer treatment. Also, during genetic counseling, emotional support is necessary for patients that are worried about their test results, or who have lost close relatives from cancer and are fearful of their own risks. However, people may worry about the privacy issue of the test results. The disclosure of genetic information could lead to discrimination. Genetic test results are predictive and mustn’t be defrauded and abused, otherwise may cause severe damage. For example, if the privacy of patients is disclosed by testing companies, insurance companies will make decisions based on genetic conditions of their customers, and the same situation could happen on employers choosing their employees. Genetic discrimination can be relieved by regulations made by government and certain punishment on actions violating personal privacy.
Increased amount of genetic tests will be followed by legislation that protects the privacy of genetic information. A news reported on May 7, 2013 announced that Fabricut, one of the world’s largest distributors of decorative fabrics, will pay $50,000 for requesting family medical history. It settled a disability and genetic information discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is the first lawsuit ever filed by the EEOC alleging genetic discrimination. The result of this incident reminds companies that genetic discrimination is illegal, and that legislations regarding genetic discrimination are being conducted now, and will have more in the future.
Secondly, genetic testing contributes to the economic development. Frigaard, Martin James indicated in his 2016 research article that the market for DTC (direct-to-consumer) genetic tests has grown to more than $200 billion globally as of 2014. Market research report of 2018 by the Credence Research shows that the DTC genetic testing market expected to reach US$611.24 Mn by 2026.
The rapid increase in market shows that its commercialization might have a positive future. Accordingly, there are genethics issue related to this commercialization of genetic technology. It is dangerous to ignore ethical principles in science field to cater with the business profit. Sometimes immature technology, even hypothesis, are pre-developed and over consumed by the market.
Commercialization of scientific technology should be encouraged as it is beneficial to both science and business. Whether business and science can be linked in an appropriate manner depends on the rules and market access threshold, unifying the rules and raise the access threshold can bring the people the access to the newest technology and bring the profit partially back to the science research and encourage further development.
Lastly, genetic testing is a better choice in human evolution. According to Katherine, “some families or ethnic groups have a higher incidence of a certain disease than does the population as a whole”. Before having a child, a couple may want to know if their child would be at risk of having that disease, as well. Genetic testing for this purpose is called “genetic screening”. It helps a couple to make better decisions of child bearing and prevent potential risks. “During pregnancy, a baby’s cells can be studied for certain genetic disorders or chromosomal problems such as Down syndrome.”
Genetic testing may also be offered during pregnancy, when there is a family history of a genetic disease or individuals with physical delays. This is called “prenatal diagnosis”. For families that agree with abortion, prenatal diagnosis is a good opportunity of reconsidering. In addition, couples who are having difficulty conceiving a child or who have suffered multiple miscarriages may also be tested to identify any genetic causes to the situation.
In conclusion, the commercialization of genetic testing should be encouraged and developed rationally under certain rules and principles, because of its benefit it could bring to the individual health, the economic development, and the overall human evolution.