Legislation/Policy Issue surrounding Genetic Tests

Antony A. Courtney antony at george.lbl.gov
Mon Sep 24 22:45:46 EST 1990

Biologist, Researchers, and any other interested parties;

	As part of a project for a course entitled "Politics and Power", I am
exploring the gray area of legislation surrounding the use of genetic tests.
The press has a very definite, rather paranoid perspective on this issue, which
is why I am posting here.  I hope that a few of you can provide information
relevant to BOTH sides of the issue, and not the simplistic (and in my
view myopic) fear of "Brave New World" if the government becomes involved in
any way which the press seems to thrive upon.  Such questioning is important
and valuable to keep government honest, but does not make for a particularly
fair rhetorical exploration of the issue.

The issue, as stated for my class is as follows:

Should congress provide extra incentives to those parents whose genetic
profiles indicate their children will be healthy?

The definition of "healthy" of course gets tricky, but assume, for rhetorical
purposes that we can all agree on what "healthy" is.  I don't think there are
too many people out there who will argue that Cystic Fibrosis is a "healthy"

The tone of this issue statement is important.  Congress is not STOPPING anyone
from having children, so is not "weeding out" any genes DIRECTLY and is only
focusing on genes which EVERYONE will agree are bad.

The Pro argument is that Congress has a responsibility to ensure the health
and well-being of the population, and should encourage people to act
responsibly in deciding about children.  I think most would agree that it would
be NICE if people decided not to have children if they knew those children
would have some genetic disease, hence removing such "inferior" genes from the
gene pool.  Furthermore, (a) other nations will be doing it, and it may have
a far more elitist bent to it, and (b) congress isn't "stopping" anyone from
having children, they are just providing "encouragement" for those that will
have healthy children.

Con argument is that if an individual is "genetically superior", then he should
be able to survive and adapt best anyway, and is about the LAST person who
should need incentives or assistance.  Further con argument is that added
incentives today turn into necessities tommorow.  As time goes on, people will
NEED to pass a certain genetic test to qualify for these "incentive programs"
if they are to have any hope of affording children.

Any information or arguments you can offer which assist either side of the
issue would be appreciated tremendously, as would pointers to sources, etc. 

This class takes the form of a model congress, so it should be particularly
interesting to observe how the controversy takes form.  I'd be glad to send
information about the outcome to anyone who helps with information or arguments
on either side.

Furthermore, I recognize that there may be many out there who have a particular
view on this issue, but because of political pressures or the amount of
friction taking a certain stand would generate, do not wish to come out and
take a stand.  If you wish to offer your opinions/arguments via email, I can
insure your confidentiality.  My main interest is in collecting arguments.

Other than that, however, I would rather like to see pro and con aspects of
this issue explored publically.  The string of postings would hopefully be
a rather interesting tangent to what are fairly underused newsgroups.

Thanks for you help,


P.S.  The viewpoints and biases in this article do not in ANY WAY reflect those
	of my employer.  They are probably quite different, this being berkeley
	and all...

Antony A. Courtney                                        antony at george.lbl.gov
Advanced Development Group                           ucbvax!csam.lbl.gov!antony
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory                                     (415) 486-6692

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