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The ethical and social implications of genetic screening

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Introduction

The ethical and social implications of genetic screening by Chris Hutchison It was only in 1953 that Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. Since then genetic research has moved faster than anyone could have anticipated. Recent advances in technology have prompted the setting up of a collaborative project in which scientists from all the world share information on our genetic make-up. The ultimate aim is to completely map the human genome. Already 10,000 genes have been pin pointed and the function is known of almost 4,000 of these. At the current rate of advancement it wont be long before all genes and their function have been discovered. Not only will this allow us to discover more about ourselves and how genes work but it will also allow us to spot problems in the genetic makeup. This includes inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis or Down's syndrome and diseases which people are made more vunerable to by an amalgamation of faulty genes, such as cancer. ...read more.

Middle

Many live full, fun lived lives. People with Down's syndrome, for example, are renowned for their loving nature and good humour. There is also scope for problems with genetic screening after birth. Take Huntingdon's Chorea for instance. There is no cure or even treatment available and it seems clear that a potential carrier has the right to choose not to take the test. But what if they already have children and one of them wants to know if they carry the disease? If the child takes the test and the result is positive that confirms that not only will they one day develop the disease but also that the parent they inherited it from will too. So which right should prevail? The right to know or the right not to know? 1 in 25 people of the population of this country carry the gene causing cystic fibrosis. Programmes to screen for these people are being trailed both here and in the US. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps some things are best left chance, or to fate? Post-natal screening also gives rise to other issues. The main one being discrimination. A survey recently carries out in Britain by the disability charity Radar found that "some 90% of disabled people feared that the growing emphasis on genetics would lead to further discrimination." With only some further advancements doctors could provide a report on the very basis of everyone's being- their genes. This could highlight any risks of developing illnesses, passing on illnesses or becoming disabled. This information could then be used by ruthless companies and prevent the sale of or increase the cost of life insurance, for example. Employers may also discriminate against applicants with a 'poor genetic rating'. Although far fetched this screening could also lead to a class system based on people's genetic code. This could cause situations in which the 'genetically' impure are eradicated or sterilised (much like WWII Germany) to create a 'better' society. Although there are many problems and ethical issues associated with genetic testing and screening a lot of good can come of these techniques. ...read more.

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Here's what a star student thought of this essay

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Response to the question

The essay here engages will with the task, looking at both social and moral issues. There is a discussion of both sides of the argument, which is great. I would've liked to have seen some more critical language such as ...

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Response to the question

The essay here engages will with the task, looking at both social and moral issues. There is a discussion of both sides of the argument, which is great. I would've liked to have seen some more critical language such as "this argument is weaker because" or "this could be argued, however" to show the examiner you can evaluate arguments. I'm not a big fan of conclusions which end by saying there are costs and benefits. It is much better to have an assertive voice which poses a justified judgement based on evidence and analysis.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is strong. Although this essay focuses on the social and moral issues, it's still relevant to remember it is a Biology essay. Throwing in a few definitions of pre-natal screening and how it works would only make your argument more convincing. Similarly, explaining how the human genome is being mapped would benefit any arguments regarding social and moral concerns. This essay manages this in parts, but I feel there could be just a bit more reference to scientific processes. The debates here are perceptive and approach them with a mature manner. I liked how reference to research and developments in techniques was included to discuss how the social and moral concerns will be addressed into the future. It's great to see an essay which also considers the future prospects of genetic screening. I think this essay missed out on a huge topic regarding insurance and employment. If a person has a gene defect which means they're susceptible to heart disease, an employer with this information would be reluctant and so would an insurance company. Although with a change of lifestyle the heart disease can be prevented, this person will be discriminated heavily against.

Quality of writing

This essay has an okay structure. I would've liked to have seen the introduction define genetic screening with reference to the scientific process as mentioned above. I feel this would just enable to examiner to see you have a sound understanding of the biology involved.
I feel as if there are a few too many rhetorical questions here. This is supposed to be an A-Level Biology essay, not an English Language piece or a debate. Emotive language, therefore, is not appropriate. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are fine. I don't see the point in referencing at A-Level if you're going to include "Unknown scientific journal originating in USA" which is highly unnecessary.


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Reviewed by groat 20/04/2012

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