Modern Eugenics: Genetic Testing on Disease

Published: 2021-07-22 01:40:06
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Category: Illness, Genetics

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The History of Eugenics
The start of eugenics was back in 1883, a term used by Sir Francis Galton meaning “well born.” The eugenics movement began back in the U.S. in the late 19th century where they were focused to make a stop on the “undesirable” traits from passings down generations. With these ideas, some US leaders and corporations started funding eugenical studies. This lead to the 1911 establishment of The Eugenics Records Office in the state of New York. The Eugenics Records Office spent the time tracking family histories and determined that people deemed to be unfit, often came from families that were poor, immigrants, and/or minorities.
In the United States, 33 states had sterilization programs in place and at first sterilization targeted towards the mentally ill people but later on certain traits were serious enough to permit sterilization included feeble mindedness, poverty, promiscuity, deafness, alcoholism, and blindness. It was common that African American women to be sterilized during different medical procedures without consent. People subjected to sterilization had no choice, and since the program was run by the government, people had no chance of escaping the procedure. By the start of World War II was when eugenics reached other countries, especially Germany. When the Nazi’s of Germany took over, Hitler’s use of the eugenic principles were used to justify their wrongdoings which lead to eugenics losing its credibility as a field of study or even an ideal.Genetic Testing
Genetic testing on disease turns into a complicated situation because a certain ethnic group are likely to be involved for the ancestry. As an example we have Tay-Sachs, a disease that is more common in certain Jewish communities. “Tay-Sachs is a genetic disease that causes a deterioration of mental and physical abilities and results in death by age four. Eradicating Tay-Sachs will require screening all individuals in the affected population.” (Is Eugenics Happening Today?) A campaign that tests individuals of Jewish descent for Tay-Sachs see it as racist motivations of eugenicists from the early 20th century, especailly those associated with Nazi Germany.
Modern genetic technology can be argued, parents to be can be prescreened to see if they are carriers for certain diseases. Modern technology can involve vitro fertilization which allows parents to select embryos that are free of disease but this can also be argued on leaning towards eugenics since it controls and has the ability to control disease to please the parents but genetic testing can provide much information to parents about their unborn child. When parents who want to have a child without pursuing genetic testing can feel guilty if the child is born with any health problems because it does put at risk the child whilst in the mother and can put the child in stress that is if the parents agree to the prenatal tests. “The most significant difference between modern genetic technologies, that some view as eugenic, and the historical use of eugenics is consent. Today, individuals pursue genetic testing by choice. Individuals differ in their views on genetic testing in relation to reproductive decision-making and possible eugenic motivations, but at least today parents have the choice to use the technology or not.” (Is Eugenics Happening Today?)
Consumer Genetics
With modern technology comes the companies who provide services that specialize in “consumer genetics”. These tests can be used outside of the medical world meaning not prescription is needed all you need to do is pay around $70-$130 USD. 23andMe advertises testing for over 256 genetically inherited diseases and conditions. This type of testing allows people to know whether they are at future risk for a disease, such as diabetes but also consider their future on children and whether or not they would try to conceive for the risk of passing what they have, down. “23andMe claims that the Family Traits Inheritance calculator offers an “engaging way for you and your partner to see what types of traits your child might inherit.” The calculator is presented as a tool, a more scientific way of predicting a baby’s appearance than looking at family members and guessing what the child might inherit.” (A Little Too Perfect: 23andMe’s Patent on ‘Designer Baby)
“The patent outlines a process for the application of 23andMe’s technology in fertility clinics. According to the patent, prospective parents may select a “phenotype of interest” for their child. (A phenotype is the physical manifestation of a gene, (i.e. tall, brown hair).) Then, a donor may be selected according to the probability of the child expressing the “phenotype of interest” when the donor’s gametes are matched with one of the parents.” This is a play on ethics and how it can be considered safe when others view it as unethical and selfish. It is understandable why parents would take these measures for the better of their future and future children so they would be without all the suffering as some view it.
Modern day eugenics is a risk on all ends. There are certain topics that leans towards eugenics such as designer babies but nowadays people consider it a part of their lives, especially those with money and a privilege for their future children. Since the start of the eugenics movement began back in the U.S. in the late 19th century where they were focused to make a stop on the “undesirable” traits from passings down generations, others have fought against this ideology and argued against it. Modern technology is used with a desire to be ‘healthy, intelligent, and as physically fit as possible.’ because individuals want their children to be as healthy as possible and don’t want to bring children into the world who will suffer.

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