Pin Me

Ethics of Genetic Testing – Many Questions Remain Unanswered

written by: •edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 6/30/2008

Questions about genetic testing continue to be a topic of high debate for ethical reasons and affect the scientific community.

  • slide 1 of 1

    When you hear the term genetic testing it immediately brings to mind the debates over ethics surrounding the topic. Controversies over genetic manipulation, testing and procedures that have long been and continue to be debated because of ethical and scientific concern. The general concept of genetic testing involves the direct examinations of DNA molecules. This is done by a scientist who scans a DNA sample from a patient and detects any mutated sequences.

    There are two main types of genetic testing:

    1.      Designing short pieces or probes of DNA that contain complementary sequences to other mutated sequences of the DNA. The probes look for the complementary sequence in the base pair of a person’s genome. If the mutated sequence is detected, the DNA probe will be able to bind it and therefore flag the mutation.

    2.      Comparing the DNA base sequences of patient’s genes to that of a healthy person’s genes.


    Questions that have caused a great debate with genetic testing and continue to remain unanswered include:

    1.      Absence of a cure: There is a lack of treatment and preventative measures for a lot of diseases and conditions that are now being diagnoses and predicted through genetic testing.

    2.      Ownership of genetic information: Who will be able to control and own the genetic information, including information about gene products or characteristics that are inherited and derived from an individual. There is a possibility of a divide in genetics and it can pose a risk for minority populations who do not have access to genetic testing.

    3.      Reproductive issues: These issues include the use of the information derived from genetic testing that can result in reproductive decision making and the possibility of altering genetic information that can be passed on to future generations. Human cloning is an ongoing debate of ethical proportions.

    4.      Clinical issues: These clinical issues revolve around the capabilities and limitations of the health service providers and doctors, the people identified with the genetic conditions and the public that deals with the genetic data.

    5.      Effects on social institutions: Since genetic tests seem to reveal certain information about individuals, the results of these tests can affect the way the family and society respond.

    6.      Conceptual implications: These include both philosophical and conceptual implications that are regarding the responsibility of humans and the basic concepts of determinism of health and disease.