Magazine article The Futurist

Growing Need for Genetic Literacy

Magazine article The Futurist

Growing Need for Genetic Literacy

Article excerpt

As testing for genetically based diseases becomes more widespread and new genetic discoveries are made every day, people need a means by which to assimilate this information properly, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

"The public is generally not well prepared to face the increasing number and complexity of personal and public policy decisions likely to emerge from advances in human genetics," warns the report, Assessing Genetic Risks: Implications for Health and Social Policy.

Worse, individuals and families may have to struggle with such technical genetic information when they are in a state of crisis or shock, such as when a newborn baby is discovered to have a life-threatening genetic condition.

The day when genetic matters will have to be dealt with on a large scale may not be that far off. The report notes that there is already pressure from commercial interests to increase the amount of genetic testing. The main worry is that the reality of the marketplace will outpace policy, a shortcoming that could potentially result in people losing insurance or employment as a result of such tests. At present, "the ability to diagnose genetic disorders far exceeds any ability to treat or cure them," say the report's authors. …

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