Genetic Discrimination Based on Testing for "Harmful" Genes

Topics: Genetics, Eugenics, Human genome Pages: 4 (1180 words) Published: October 1, 2007
Genetic Discrimination Based on Testing For "Harmful" Genes

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. The goals have been to create healthier, more intelligent people, lessen human suffering and save society's resources. Sir Frances Galton, introduced the term "eugenics", and is regarded as the founder of the modern science eugenics (Bennett). Earlier means of achieving these goals focused on selective breeding while more modern ones focus on prenatal testing and screening, genetic counseling, birth control, in-vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering. Critics argue that eugenics is immoral and is based on or is a pseudoscience. In the past, eugenics has been used as a justification for coercive state-sponsored discrimination and severe human rights violations, such as forced sterilization (e.g. of those perceived to have mental or social defects) and even genocide. However, eugenics from the very beginning, means many different people. The term has been used to cover everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization. Consequently debate took place in the past, and takes place today, as to what exactly counts as eugenics (Paul 97).

The most disputed aspect of eugenics has been the definitions of "improvement" of the human gene pool. What is a beneficial characteristic and what is a defector-harmful gene? It is at this point, genetic discrimination becomes a factor. What appears to be a "harmful gene" in one context or environment may not be so in another. This can be the case for genes with a heterozygote advantage, such as sickle cell anemia or Tay-Sachs disease, which in their heterozygote form, may offer an advantage against malaria and tuberculosis. Many people can succeed in life with disabilities. Many of the conditions early eugenicists identified as inheritable are currently considered to be at least partially attributed to...

Cited: Bennett, Simon J. "Genetical Discrimination"
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Ayala, F. J. (1990) in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Gillespie, C. C. (Scribner 's, New York), Vol. 17, Suppl. II, pp. 233-242.
Dobzhansky. (1973) Genetic Diversity and Human Equality (Basic Books, New York).
Harris, L. D. (1981) Genetics 97, 667-677
Paul, E
Broberg, W. G., Nil-Hansen. (1971) The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago).
Wright, S. (1931) Genetics 16, 97-159
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