If You Could Know, Would You?

In 2001, PBS’s documentary series Nova released an episode over the human genome titled “Cracking the Code.”  It was over the new and rapid advances being made in the field of genomics.  The human genome had recently been fully sequenced and it appeared as though the world would be facing many large and terrifying advances in genetic technologies.  This documentary was made to attempt to educate, or at the very least inform, the general American public about just what exactly this new development meant, and the possible technologies that could spring out of it.  It was a noble effort- if the people at Nova could educate people about this technology in an informed and casual way, it would most certainly help to prevent a massive backlash against the technology; after all, this technology at the time was like something out of a terrifying dystopian sci-fi flick.

However, the sections that interested me the most during the documentary were those that touched upon the idea of genetic screening- the story of the Lord family and Lissa and Allana.  In the story of the Lord family, the focus was upon the children of both of the Lord brothers, each of which were diagnosed as having Tay Sachs, a genetic disease that generally results in the death of the diagnosed within a few years.  The section mainly focused upon the plight of the family, trying to appeal to emotion, and I’ll be the first to admit, it works spectacularly at doing that.  However, it does begin to touch upon the idea of genetic screening.  The parents of these two children were spectacularly unlucky.  They were both carriers of the recessive gene that can cause Tay Sachs.  Genetic screening could have alerted them to this fact.  It would have allowed them to weigh their options, to determine whether they should risk the chance of going through the years of heartache, whether  it would be better to have a donor, or whether adoption is the best option.

The next section was that over Lissa and Allana.  Lissa’s sister Melanie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and eventually died from it.  It was revealed, when Lissa eventually developed cancer as well, that their family had a mutation in the BRCA gene that made them more prone to developing breast cancer.  Lissa’s daughter, Allana, does not know if she has received the mutated gene as well, but the possibility is real.  This section raises and important question,  if you could know exactly what diseases you are likely to receive from your genetics, would you decide to know and live in worry, or would you rather remain blissfully unaware.

~Nathanial Edwards

~ by lecount101 on January 12, 2014.

2 Responses to “If You Could Know, Would You?”

  1. I think it is important to be screened for these diseases if you are making the choice (and effort) to have children, because you are passing on these genes into the next generation. In the case of the video, it was more or less bad luck that the families all were carriers of Tay-Sachs, and though it was not guaranteed that their child would have the disease, I feel that it is something that a parent should consider.

    There also is the issue of later generations, if you have a child that also happens to carry a disease, you are in effect allowing a potential harmful genetic mutation (such as Tay Sachs) to persist into future generations.

    As far as personal knowledge of your own genetic likelihood of disease, if you want to be tested, I think that is your own prerogative. However, if you are having a child, I believe it is your duty to be away of what you may be passing on to your loved one’s and to the future generations as a whole. I think that then a responsible choice can be made.


  2. This reminds me of the scene in Gattaca when the parents were going through genetic counseling for Vincent’s brother. I believe that it would be a neat advancement if parents would be able to screen whether or not their future children would have any major diseases. I definitely feel that it is the parent’s responsibility to be aware of the future of their children and this includes a possible genetic disease that a child may have in order to make the best possible life for him or her.

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