In addition to providing relatively accurate information about the percentage of each ethnic background that one descends from, DNA kits can also be utilized for understanding and predicting health issues such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and many other invasive illnesses. Considering the rapid progression and increasing accuracy of this technology, it is that latter characteristic of DNA kits which render it beneficial to society. The discourse of genetic examinations primarily includes the ethical issues of how this technology is invasive to an individuals lifestyle, may create collaborative secrecies with third parties, and be affected by government regulation.
My contribution to this discourse will defend DNA test kits and contend for an individual to have the right to access all information pertaining to their genome, government to regulate information of DNA analysis under HIPAA and GINA, and for the minimal involvement of third parties in interpreting genetic sequences.If everyone were able to choose to be aware of the potential health risks in their life, then those who chose to be aware would have the ability to live a more complete life; they could exercise, eat, and interact socially in the level that is most beneficial to their long-term goal. Although everyone will eventually be deceased, it is still better to have lived a healthier and happier life due to an inexpensive interpretation of genetic sequences than to have dealt with sudden, prolific and deleterious illnesses. Since this DNA test reveals information about the consumer and is paid for by the consumer, it is only logical and fair for the consumer to have the right to have information about their DNA analysis and as such, it is unjustifiable for genomic companies to hide information from their clients when that information is available and requested for. Moreover, when genomic companies come across rare illnesses, they can utilize the obtained genetic tissue to pursue research to create drugs and treatment procedures to help those in need.Despite these important outcomes, well-known genomics companies like 23andMe continue to be notorious due to their difficult interactions with the FDA, vague evaluations of disease symptoms, and sharing of genetic data with other pharmaceutical and insurance agencies. The imprecise assessments of DNA tests by 23andMe and similar such companies contribute to the involvement of third parties to aid with interpreting genetic sequences. In the instance that a DNA test reveals significantly detrimental information about the consumer, third parties serve as a form of validation and closure to the consumer.
Third parties, however, are not always necessary for interpretation of sequences since genomic companies are comprised of computers and genetics who can accurately analyze DNA. The involvement of third parties should, therefore, be a choice initiated by the consumer rather than a company’s system of distributing personal health information without the consumer’s approval.Private companies have the capability to accomplish privacy infractions due to integral corruption such as bribery, with-holding of financial information, sharing client information, et cetera despite the said corruption being a clear infringement of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (OECD, 2003).
HIPAA provides security for all personal health information, which is anything that can be used to identify a person (dhcs.ca.gov). Violation of HIPAA can potentially result in genetic discrimination, which is the prejudiced treatment of people by their employer or insurance company (“What is genetic discrimination?”). For example, if a genomic company sells information to an insurance company revealing that an individual is at high risk for diabetes, then that company may refuse to provide insurance to said individual. Furthermore, Kathryn Gordon from OECD conducted a study to analyze the negative stereotypes surrounding private companies and demonstrated that over 75% of private companies fall prey to corruption (2003).
This statistic is unlikely to slip past genomic companies; it is more likely than not that a consumer’s DNA is distributed for financial purposes.To ensure consumer confidentiality and equality, it is necessary that these direct-to-consumer genomic companies be regulated by the government. That is not to say that the FDA and other federal organizations should have the right to control DNA and information resulting from that DNA. Government agencies should regulate distribution of genetic data due because it keeps the consumer safe. When a consumer chooses to submit their personal tissue to companies like 23andMe, they are entrusting that specific company and the people within to analyze their DNA only.
For the government to pursue that DNA analysis is the same as any other insurance or pharmaceutical company attempting to acquire personal health information; if the consumer did not authorize it, then it should not happen.