"Humanity and human DNA." - GreenMedInfo Summary
Humanity and human DNA.
Eur J Med Genet. 2012 Oct ;55(10):503-9. Epub 2012 Jun 13. PMID: 22705070
Espace Ethique Méditerranéen, Hôpital de la Timone, 13005 Marseille cedex 5, France. firstname.lastname@example.org
Genetics has marked the second half of the 20th century by addressing such formidable problems as the identification of our genes and their role, their interaction with the environment, and even their therapeutic uses. The identification of genes raises questions about differences between humans and non-humans, as well as about the evolution towards trans-humanism and post-humanism. In practise, however, the main question concerns the limits of prenatal genetic diagnosis, not only on account of the seriousness of the affections involved but also because of the choice to be made between following-up the medical indication and engaging in a systematic public health strategy aimed at eliminating children with certain handicaps. History reminds us that genetic science has already been misused by political forces influenced by the ideas of eugenics, particularly in the Nazi period. We may wonder whether it is reasonable to formulate a judgement on the life of a child yet to be born, merely on the basis of a DNA analysis. My experience as a practising geneticist and my involvement in French politics forces me to stress the dangers of a new eugenics hiding behind a medical mask. As demonstrated by epigenetics, human beings cannot be reduced to their DNA alone. In our society, one of the problems concerns individuals whose lives may be considered by some as simply not worth living. Another problem is the place and the social significance of the handicapped amongst us. Fortunately, recent progresses in gene therapy, biotherapy, and even pharmacology, appear to be opening up promising therapeutic perspectives. We should bear in mind that the chief vocation of medical genetics, which fully belongs to the art of medicine, is to heal and to cure. This is precisely where genetics should concentrate its efforts software.