Human genome sequencing: the real ethical dilemmas

by Gilbert Keith

Human genome sequencing: the real ethical dilemmas

“The misconception that drives many a myth about genomics is that it is a simple and deterministic science. This is not just born of Gattaca, but of headlines that proclaim the supposed discovery of “genes for” obesity, binge-drinking and so on, and of the long-running and often futile nature versus nurture debate. It also reflects the way many of the first genes discovered to have medical importance are indeed deterministic – people with the Huntington’s mutation will get the disease, as will those with two copies of the recessive cystic fibrosis variant.

But for the most part, the genome does not work this way. Genomics is much better understood as a complex and probabilistic science, in which a constellation of genetic variations makes the odds, but many other factors, environmental as well as biological, decide the outcome.”