, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 167-177
Date: 14 Nov 2006

Genetic Testing: The Appropriate Means for a Desired Goal?

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Abstract

Scientists, the medical profession, philosophers, social scientists, policy makers, and the public at large have been quick to embrace the accomplishments of genetic science. The enthusiasm for the new biotechnologies is not unrelated to their worthy goal. The belief that the new genetic technologies will help to decrease human suffering by improving the public’s health has been a significant influence in the acceptance of technologies such as genetic testing and screening. But accepting this end should not blind us to the need for an evaluation of whether a particular means is adequate to achieve it. Lack of such evaluation notwithstanding, discussions of the ethical, legal, and social implications have tended to presuppose that the development and implementation of genetic testing will be an appropriate means to reduce human suffering in significant ways. I argue here that such an assumption is mistaken. In part this is the case because human biology is more complex than sometimes it is made to appear in these debates. But, the idea that human suffering resulting from disease can be reduced in significant ways with the use of genetic testing also ignores the social contexts in which these technologies are being developed and implemented.