Genetic InformationGenetic information is vital to medical management and care, particularly when that information is required as an input in predicting that risk that the patient has for common diseases. This is on the understanding that genetics science and research presents new technology and information that aid the medical services in improving public health outcomes. It is important to remember that disease is the result of interaction between human and environmental factors, as well as genetics. As such, genetic information acts as an important evidence point for making decisions concerning health improvement and disease prevention by forecasting how different individuals with dissimilar genetic makeup will behave under different conditions (Bartlette and Lawson 102; King, Rotter and Matulsky 100). For instance, health professionals use genetic information to predict whether a fetus that is only weeks old will have a birth defect, develop a heart disease or present cancer. In as much as genetic information is important to medical care and management, allocation of significant resources towards the same is not justifiable since it is only useful in some cases and not all cases.
As earlier indicated, genetic information is not useful in all medical cases. This is because not all diseases have some genetic significance. As such, it may not be justifiable to spend considerable medical resources in collecting genetics information, especially when collecting that information requires expensive reagents and equipment. In essence, genetic information would only be useful to populations that have specific genetic makeup that predisposes them towards getting the disease. For that matter, the public health sector can prioritize its needs by identifying the genetic information that would be needed and beneficial for specific populations. This implies that the remaining diseases should only be subjects of standard testing procedures (Bartlette and Lawson 102; King, Rotter and Matulsky 100). Two specific groups that can be identified as subjects of genetic information collection would be infants and employees. Firstly, infants are subjected to genetic screening when their family history identifies them as being at risk of developing a debilitating heritable condition. For instance, families with a history of phenylketonuria (PKU) should subject their children to its genetic testing since failure to identify and manage this condition at an early age could result in the child being mentally retarded even as he or she grows older. By testing for PKU and confirming its presence or absence, the parents can plan on how the child will develop and make a meaningful contribution to the community. This is only useful for manageable diseases. For example, testing should not be prioritized for Huntington disease although it is heritable. This is because the disease is not manageable with the present medical technologies, and its diagnosis does not change anything about the individual’s medical care (Edlin and Golanty 356).
Secondly, genetic screening should be prioritized when the individual runs a risk of developing the disease due to occupational factors. In this case, the employer collects the genetic information and uses it to create a profile of the workers that will show who is most at risk of developing the occupational disease. For instance, the companies that handle asbestos are aware that their workers have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer and may require genetic profiling to determine when to organize workers rotation so as to reduce their chance of developing the disease. It is important to remember that genetic testing is only available for a small number of moderately rare disease. In addition, they are hard to administer and very expensive. As such, not all work environments that expose their personnel to high occupations risks will opt for genetic testing and profiling (Edlin and Golanty 356). For example, bar and tobacco shop owners may not conduct genetic profiling of their personnel even though their exposure to second-hand smoke increase their probability of developing lung cancer.
In as much as genetic information presents revolutionary advances in the field of medical sciences and an understanding of the body systems, it has raised some social, legal and ethical issues. This is the case when questions concerning proper information use and confidentiality are raised. This is a valid concern when it is considered that genetic information is collected for clinical diagnosis and identification of the risk factor for developing a specific disease, but there are occasions when the information is inappropriately used by employers and insurance companies to make decisions and discriminate against persons with certain genetic profiles. In such cases, the employer could use the information to promote or demote certain person thereby presenting a case for discrimination. This validates the confidentiality and privacy concerns, justifying the refusal by certain individuals not to be subjected to genetic testing since the information could be used to harm them. This has resulted in genetic information management protocols being developed to govern the collection of genetic material and its disposal, permissible tests, as well as the use of the resultant information and its access (Quinn, de Paor and Blanck 69).
Other than the confidentiality and legal concerns, genetic information presents some social and psychological concerns. The most common social concern is stigmatization where persons with genetic anomalies in their profiles are made to feel like second-class citizens. In such cases, the individual feels justified in refusing to have their genetic information collected and presented to others since it might change how the rest of the community will perceive them. This is a valid concern among marginalized communities who are already relegated to the fringes of the society with the new genetic anomalies capable of worsening their situation (Quinn, de Paor and Blanck 69-70).
An ethical concern is presented when the information is used to influence decisions concerning reproduction. In such cases, there are some concerns that using genetic profiling to make decisions about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Besides that, there is the issue of lack of informed consent for potentially contentious and composite medical procedures. With regards to this, healthcare practitioners do not fully counsel their patients on the risks associated with genetic technology. In the same vein, there are concerns on how the genetic profiling and information will be assessed and regulated to manage its effectiveness, reliability, and precision. These concerns revolve around how health professionals are prepared for new genetics technologies and how much information is offered to the rest of the public to prepare them as part of the informed consent process. In addition, they raise questions concerning how the social risks and scientific restrictions associated with genetics testing will be balanced against both short-term and long-term benefits (Quinn, de Paor and Blanck 69-70).
These concerns are raised against the backdrop of an understanding that public health organizations are obligated to provide their patients and clients with the necessary information that will allow them to make informed decisions in relation to the testing programs and policies, and to acquire their approval before implementation. Public health organizations are obligated to provide communities especially minority ones with the necessary information required to make informed decisions on policies or programs with regard to genetic testing and to acquire the community’s approval for their implementation. This identifies the public as an important component for regulating genetic information acquisition, along with the government agencies that play a regulatory role. It implies that they can be instrumental in defining how genetic information is acquired and used, particularly when there is a high risk of discrimination and the disease being tested does not have a cure. This would help them to avoid the stigma that is associated with genetic testing, ensuring that informed consent is included as part of the ethical obligation. This implies that public health should implement effective programs and policies that promote and protect health by ensuring the correct use and access of genetic information, as well as protection against unauthorized access (Hernandez 57).
One must accept that genetic information presents an important milestone in public health management. This is because it provides unique health information that facilitates medical diagnosis and care. In addition, one must acknowledge that integrating genetic information into public health approaches enhances the understanding of rare diseases and improves their management. However, it is important to note that genetic information is expensive to collect and only useful to a small population that has a unique genetic makeup that predisposes them towards developing the disease. In other cases, the information is not useful for any purpose other than informing diagnosis and knowledge. For instance, Huntington disease can be diagnosed in infants through genetic testing but cannot be cured thereby making the test results only useful in advancing knowledge. Therefore, there is a need for policies and programs to govern how genetic information is collected and used to ensure that it does not have an adverse effect on the public.
Bartlette, Linda and Ida Lawson. Health Care Policies. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2008. Print.
Edlin, Gordon and Eric Golanty. Health and Wellness, 10th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010. Print.
Hernandez, Lyla. Implications of Genomics for Public Health: Workshop summary. Washington, D. C.: The National Academies Press, 2005. Print.
King, Richard, Jarome Rotter, and Arno Motulsky. The Genetic Basis of Common Diseases, 2nd ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
Quinn, Gerard, Aisling de Paor and Peter Blanck. Genetic Discrimination: Transatlantic perspectives on the case for a European-level legal response. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. Print.
Get a verified expert to help you with any urgent paper!Hire a Writer
from $10 per-page