The improvement of certain areas of genetics and biotechnology has led to the diversification of health care, criminal investigation and social technology opportunities. In particular, the discovery of human DNA allowed developing a useful technology known as genetic analysis. Although it is widely used in family counseling, diet and nutrition selection and criminal investigation, the public debate over the ethical nature of genetic testing is still ongoing given its possible misuse.
The present paper is designed to describe DNA testing, its social value and reflect it’s the controversy over its correspondence to the norms of the modern society. In fact, DNA analysis is eligible for wider spread only if the observance of data banking confidentiality and other vital civil rights are promoted at the governmental level. Lyon describes DNA analysis in the following way: “From a tiny sample of body tissue, a forensic laboratory can use an autoradiogram to create an image consisting of a cluster of horizontal bands that form a pattern resembling a bar code” (Lyon, 2002, p.94).
The technology was developed for the purpose of discovering familial ailments and genetic mutations, but in 1983 it was first used to identify a rapist (Nelkin, 1995, p. 157). DNA fingerprinting is a non-traumatic and comparatively cheap procedure, so it has been utilized in policing (e. g. identification the remnants of the body, a missing person, or the person who has committed a crime), examination of historical personalities and health care (e.
g. detection of predisposition to specific diseases and their prevention) (Nelkin, 1995, p. 157; Lyon, 2002, p. 98). As one can understand, the technology already has substantial meaning to society, since it allows enhancing public health and safety. On the other hand, there are several ethical challenges to DNA testing, which allegedly might become a tool of unethical surveillance and eugenics.
For instance, given that the genes related to aggressive or violent predisposition have already been discovered (Lyon, 2002, p. 99), it is easy to imagine selective testing of minority people with regard to the existing stereotypes, which associate crime with race. Law enforcement authorities, in turn, might develop keen interest in additional preventative measures: “This might include keeping them under surveillance or even preventive detention” (Lyon, 2002, p. 102).
The society, still characterized by considerable race prejudice, is not ready to accept DNA testing as a measure against violence, since stigmatization and labeling are extremely unfavorable effects which await those who will be identified as a ‘potential criminal’. It also needs to be noted that and even non-aggressive individuals commit crimes, due to the other qualities of personality, such as tendency to deception, lying and cold-blood sadism (without any aggression, in fact), so the technology is not likely to be used in the specified direction given the possibility of condemning the innocent.
In addition, the broadening of the DNA research might result in the introduction of compulsory testing for the purpose of collecting the pertinent data into government databases, given that various authorities are increasingly more interested in citizens’ profiles, especially those engaged with migration and foreign affairs issues (Hoeffel, 1990, p. 527). On the other hand, the revelation of the information about one’s health condition or heredity might result in insurance or workplace discrimination (Nelkin, 1995, p.
162), so the practice of genetic surveillance is not likely to be introduced due to the existing problems with information security (Lyon, 2002, p. 109). Finally, the use of DNA testing at the prenatal stage of human development for the purpose of detecting “unfavorable” genes like those of hereditary diseases, pathologies and intellectual deficiencies is a controversial question, since it touches deeply the issue of civil liberties and human rights and might appear a predecessor of 21st century eugenics (Hoeffel, 1990, p. 527).
For instance, certain characteristics may become “undesirable” or “out of fashion”, and the future parents thus may be unwilling to give birth to an “imperfect” child. However, diversity is a modern value of the Western world, so the manipulations referring to eugenics or artificial selection are not likely to be endorsed under the strong civil rights imperative. To sum up, DNA testing is a ground-breaking technology that should be handled with cautious and humanistic approach. As the present paper has showed, the creation of healthier and safer society requires extremely detailed legislation in biotechnology.
Genetic mutations and the related diseases, which are mushrooming nowadays, can be successfully avoided with the development of genetics, and there is a real opportunity to improve Americans’ physical and emotional functioning in the future.
Hoeffel, J. (1990). The Dark Side of DNA Profiling, Stanford Law Review, 42: 527. Lyon, D. (2002). Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk, and Digital Discrimination. New York: Routledge. Nelkin, D. (1995). Forms of Intrusion: Comparing Resistance to Information Technology and Biotechnology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.