Genetic Screening in Private and Public Sector

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Genetic screening is a type of medical test that determines an individual’s proteins, chromosomes or genes, with the primary goal of ruling out or confirming a genetic condition (Geller, et al., 1997). When a baby is born, they can be subjected to newborn screening that can detect genetic disorders that can be treated at an early age (Wertz & Heiman, 2017). Thereafter, one can be subjected to other types of genetic screening at any age. More people want to understand their genetic combination thus, genetic research leading to a growing demand for databanks and centers that are either operated by private organizations or the public sector. Genetic conditions determine the traits of an individual and therefore considered private information. Being private information, it should be secured and thus the private sector should not have access to such information.

            Genetic screening in the hands of the private online organization will cause stigmatization and discrimination at the workplace (Knoppers, et al., 2015). The choice whether or not to take a genetic screen is personal, but an employer can gather the genetic information on an individual through several means. If genetic data is passed through private organizations, the data will no longer be private. Employers will have access to the data by purchasing it from online sources and use it to determine whether or not to employ certain job applicants. The employers can go to the extent of discriminating people with traits that are not associated with the workplace. In 1970’s, employers used genetic information to deny all job applicants with the sickle cell anemia gene mutation, even if the individual was healthy. In the insurance sector, companies will buy the genetics data to discriminate based on the genetic trait prone to certain illness. The public sector does not sell nor disclose the genetic data and thus they should be the only organizations accessing people’s genetic data.

            Commercialization of genetic data by private organizations will only bring more harm. Some companies sell genetic information to researchers or other companies as their customer’s consent to their data being sold after any tests. As per now, identified data cannot be sold unless individual signs the research consent documents (Bradbury, et al., 2014). Most of the private organizations’ goal is making a profit. 23andMe, a private company in genetic data field reported that Genetech, a drug company was offering $60 million to use genetic data in research. If money is offered to the private companies, they will be tempted to sell data of individuals who have not signed the research consent document to make profits as they are in for the money.

            Mismanagement, careless handling of data and poor management in the name of reducing the cost of operation in private and public sector organizations is worrying. Genetic screening is a very sensitive matter that should be handled with care (Geller, et al., 1997). Genetic screening results in knowing traits, even those that are linked to certain diseases or conditions. If such traits are found in an individual, they should be approached with care as the initial shock would be harsh. Private organization companies may have inexperienced professionals in handling such case scenarios.

            Genetic screening determines the traits of an individual, which is a private and sensitive information. The information going through private online organization compromises the privacy of the information. Stigmatization and discrimination will result from private companies handling genetic information. Individuals will be discriminated due to having certain traits that do not appeal the employer or an insurance company.  Commercialization of information will lead to selling of non-consented data for profits. Mismanagement and poor management are also associated with private organizations; thus they should not be trusted with such sensitive information. Genetic screening should therefore be conducted by public sector only due to the various disadvantages witnessed in the private sector. All private sector handling such data should be shut down immediately.

References

 Bradbury, A. R., Patrick-Miller, L., & Domchek, S. (2014). Multiplex genetic testing:             reconsidering utility and informed consent in the era of next-generation sequencing.     Genetics in Medicine, 17(2), 97.

Geller, G., Botkin, J. R., Green, M. J., Press, N., Biesecker, B. B., Wilfond, B., ... & Kahn, M. J.     E. (1997). Genetic testing for susceptibility to adult-onset cancer: the process and content    of informed consent. Jama, 277(18), 1467-1474.

Knoppers, B. M., Ma'n, H. Z., & Sénécal, K. (2015). Return of genetic testing results in the era of whole-genome sequencing. Nature Reviews Genetics, 16(9), 553.

Wertz, M. H., & Heiman, M. (2017). Genome-Wide Genetic Screening in the Mammalian CNS.       In Genome Editing in Neurosciences (pp. 31-39). Springer, Cham.

October 05, 2023
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