Gene testing

Bryan Ness bryan.ness at
Mon Feb 28 01:26:00 EST 1994

Mark Garfinkle Wrote:

MDG>    As for DNA testing, think of it this way: It's a method that
MDG>may allow you & your doctor to identify a disease, or risk of getting
MDG>a disease *prior* to the onset of symptoms. More knowledge = better
MDG>treatment, including preventive care. If a person has high blood
MDG>pressure or elevated serum cholesterol, he may have no external
MDG>symptoms now, but might suffer a heart attack & die later. He &
MDG>his doctor do the tests, identify the problem & *do* something about
MDG>it. Suppose the person has a "bad gene" that makes it easier for the
MDG>cholesterol to go out of whack... then it becomes *even more
MDG>important* that the patient learn how to eat healthier foods &

I certainly agree with you that gemetic testing couldlead to
better medical treatment, but what about incurable diseases?
What are the ethics of giving someone a test for Huntington's
Disease?  There is no cure and because of the nature of the test
it isn't even 100% accurate.  Some will receive good news and
others will receive the death sentence.  What would be the
purpose of such information?

Maybe we could simply make the test for Huntington's Disease
available and let people decide whether they wanted to be tested
or not.  Should they be tested by a psychologist first to see if
they could handle a positive test result?  Should they be able to
sue their doctor if the test is incorrect?

I certainly believe testing should be done as widely as possible
for treatable diseases, but should be done sparingly and
carefully for incurable diseases.  The real question is who
should decide who should be tested, the patient, the doctor, the
insurance company, the government, etc.?

Bryan Ness
Asst. Professor of Biology
Pacific Union College
Angwin, CA  94508
bness at

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