Expanding the Discussion
Questions to help you grapple with the program's issues in a broader context:
- As genetic tests become more refined, scientists will be able to determine how an organism's genome responds to exposure to an ever-greater number of environmental toxins. This emerging field, called toxico-genomics, helps us understand the interaction between genes and the environment. If it becomes possible to determine that a certain group faces ten times the health risk of the general population if exposed to a certain pesticide, does the government have a responsibility to that population? If so, how should the issue be addressed?
- Individuals may seek information about their genetic make-up that members of their families or communities emphatically wish to keep private. Scientists or insurers may claim a legitimate need for access to genetic test results that the test subjects maintain are theirs alone. Whom do you see as the principle stakeholders in the debate about access to genetic information? Are multiple "fair" outcomes possible?
- Up to 10 percent of the general population has a genetic marker that has been associated with increased susceptibility to berylliosis, a degenerative lung condition, caused by exposure to an element called beryllium. Suppose you run a factory where beryllium is used. Are you obligated to test your employees? What if some don't want to be tested and are willing to take the risk? What if some workers have the gene but want to stay in the job? Does the existence of the test reduce the traditional obligation of the employer to provide a safe workplace?
- Should the government be entrusted with establishing a confidential genetic database of the population? Why or why not?
- How can we protect both the privacy of the individual and the sharing of information on which scientific progress depends?