Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Commentary on Personal Genomics testing

I was reading the usual "say no to personal genetics tests" blog post

I shall go out on a limb here and declare up front, I am ambivalent about personal genetic tests. In addition, I am wholly against unscrupulous consumerism that overpromises (which might be genetic tests for factors that can't possibly be done now with our current scientific knowledge e.g. intelligence testing, for a list of good examples you may refer to "Some of the 40 behavioral genes that are tested  here." There are a few of the behavioural genes which I believe are bona fide but 'self detoxification' has to be a joke, I hope)

That being said, I would like to offer the flipside of the story. 
The term 'increased risk' is contentious. If you recall the "Toyota Recall" fiasco, did you manage to get any numbers on the increased risk of driving one of the affected cars? The difference is 0.00028 percent according to this page. 
Would that stop you from not sending your car in?
Of course not, and I am not urging you to stop as well. 

But the point is not wholly about the increased risk, but rather your right to know the risks that you are taking. Knowledge is a double edged sword, I recall a friend being tormented by her positive results for early Down's Syndrome screening for her unborn child. Only the negative results from her amniotic fluid test set her mind at rest. Yet I believe no one would ask that the results of the first test be kept private from a patient to prevent undue worry. And I am sure the doctor explained the test fully. But it is only natural for my friend to be worried. 

I do agree with Taralyn, without a healthcare professional explaining the results of the test, the potential for abuse and fear mongering is there. However, she should expect the average consumer who chooses a genetic test, is not an average consumer. He or she is likely an educated consumer, who has an idea of what the test portends or has a known family history of cancer / genetic disease and wishes to have the knowledge to better manage his/her lifestyle.

And to Taralyn, I would like to answer with a "YES" to your question of "Will I ever be able to air-mail a swab of my saliva for my genetic read-out?" Not because you should but you can if you so choose to. This is because the technology is here.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. We should educate people with concepts of "risk" and with the real meaning of this kind of tests, rather than assuming that people are stupid and must be protected from "dangerous" results. People have the intelligence and the will to understand genetic testing: what we need is some unbiased teacher.


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