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The negative portrayal of genetic advancements.

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Introduction

The Negative Portrayal of Genetic Advancements Every day scientists get one step closer to unraveling our genetic sequence. While this sounds beneficial, technology undoubtedly has a dark side as well. There is no denying the fact that science has extended and improved the lives of many, but it has also depersonalized them. People are often classified according to their disorders rather than their personalities or names. Furthermore, ethics and questions of morality must be addressed in order to handle some of the sticky issues that are created as a result of such advancements. Until recently, the topic of genetics has been practically non-existent. However, now procedures such as prenatal genetic screening have gone from occasional to routine (nine out of ten women usually have it).i Furthermore, this procedure that is "already designated as a "ritual" of pregnancy, at least for white, middle-class women in North America, is the most widespread application of genetic technology to humans today."ii Fields such as bio-ethics have been spawned from such practices, and medical journals and textbooks have been published to educate. But the information is by no means geared towards the common person. Instead, these resources have a very limited audience of those educated in the field in question. Therefore, the general public is unable to learn or keep up with the latest information. ...read more.

Middle

Though this is presently being done for the purpose of disease prevention, there is potential for much less selectivity. Another concern the media has honed in on is eugenics (From the Greek word meaning well born). This field involves the study and elimination of genetic disease with the aim of improving the human race. In her article entitled, "Disability Rights and Selective Abortion," Marsha Saxton gives a brief description of how eugenics originated and has evolved over the years. She explains: "nineteenth century, eugenicists believed that most traits, including such human "failings" as pauperism, alcoholism, and thievery, as well as such desired traits as intelligence, musical ability, and "good character," were hereditary." Eugenics has always sought to improve society by controlling the reproduction of the unfit. It encouraged white women to reproduce while discouraging the inferior groups such as immigrants and people with disabilities. In the 1920's, the American Birth Control League joined itself with the American Eugenics Society. These two groups were responsible for the forced sterilization of the mentally ill. By 1937, twenty-eight states had created eugenics sterilization laws aimed at unfit women. Between the 1930's and 1970's over 200,000 women had been sterilized.vi This mentality spread far beyond the borders of the United States. Between 1935 and 1976, at least 60,000 Swedes were sterilized because of their mixed parents and "gypsy features."vii Lastly, there is the most recognized incidence of eugenics in Nazi Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

There will always be advocates of such testing like Brian Appleyard, one of the most famous social critics. When talking about the Human Genome Project in Maryland he claims, "The notion of not pursuing genetic research is unthinkable. It would be unethical to delay it."xii He and others believe that genetics gives us control over our own bodies, but this may prove to be false. Although, medical journals and manuscripts often state the positives of such testing, the media has in no way tried to conceal its biased thoughts. Reservations about genetic screening have been common in every imaginable type of media. But these concerns have by no means gone unanswered. The government has responded to the growing alarm by creating programs to learn about these ethical and economical conflicts. One of these organizations is Wellcome Trust, which plans to educate the public on such ethical matters and conduct research regarding the possible social consequences of such advancements.xiii Hopefully, this technological transition will be made easier because of all of the research that these committees will provide. While it is encouraging that different perspectives about genetics are being voiced, they need to be more balanced. Those involved in the exciting new discoveries must step back and consider the implications of their work. The media needs to continue to inform people, just in a far less biased manner. Showing the public only the possible cons will not only frighten them, but also blind them to the wondrous ways that medicine is able to benefit our lives. ...read more.

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