Genetic Research: Are More Limitations Needed in the Field?
Sosnowski, Kristie, Journal of Law and Health
Each year scientists uncover new mysteries, make miraculous discoveries, and perfect processes that will aid them in curing thousands of debilitating and fatal diseases. In the past century, several of the most fascinating discoveries were made in the field of genetic research. For instance, in 1997, scientists cloned a sheep. The infamous cloned sheep became known as Dolly.
The importance of genetic research today is overwhelming. Although genetic research presents many legal and ethical concerns, the benefits drastically outweigh the costs. For instance over 140 million people stand to benefit from human embryonic stem cell research, including those Americans suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. (1)
In an attempt to quell the legal and ethical concerns associated with genetic research, legislation has been developed and several administrative committees have been formed. The present restraints placed on the field of genetic research by the Legislature and the administrative committees are sufficient to deal with the legal and ethical issues raised.
This Note will focus on the medical achievements that have been made, in large part, because of advances in genetic research. Specifically, this Note will focus on the genetic advances associated with the Human Genome Project, Gene Therapy, Genetic Testing, and Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
The last year of the twentieth century brought scientists one step closer to the successful completion of the Human Genome Project. (2) The Human Genome Project is a government-funded project with the underlying goal of sequencing and mapping the entire human genome. (3) Scientists believe that the completion of this project will aid them in answering many questions associated with diseases currently afflicting thousands of Americans. (4)
Additionally, researchers have made significant advances in the science of gene therapy. Researchers have developed a method referred to as gene replacement therapy. Through the use of gene replacement therapy researchers will be able to replace incorrect genetic material contained in a cell with the correct genetic material. (5) In addition to gene replacement therapy, scientists have also discovered a method of gene therapy that instructs a cell to internally correct a genetic mistake. (6)
Genetic testing is another area in which scientists have made important advances. One advance is the availability of genetic testing for familial polyposis and non hereditary ployposis colon cancer. (7) Genetic testing is extremely important, because research has proven that early disease detection can drastically improve the quality and longevity of life. (8)
In November 1998, scientists isolated stem cells in early human embryos. (9) Researchers feel this discovery will lead them to possible therapies for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. (10) Furthermore, scientists feel that they will be able generate human organs from isolated stem cells. (11) This development will enhance the therapeutic advantages of transplantation science. Those individuals drastically in need of organ transplants will no longer have to wait for an organ. With the ability to generate organs, doctors can help more patients, and significantly reduce the number of deaths associated with the unavailability of organs for use in transplantation surgeries.
In addition to discussing the benefits of genetic research, this Note will outline some of the ethical and legal concerns associated with the field of genetic research. The most prevalent concerns associated with advances in genetic research center around the availability of genetic information and how this information will effect privacy rights and employment and insurance practices. There are several other concerns and many other benefits associated with genetic research; however, this Note does not encompass them. …