Health Sociology Genetic privacy Essay Example

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Health sociology genetic privacy 5

Health Sociology Genetic Privacy

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Health sociology genetic privacy

The genetic technology revolution has proved to be both a blessing and blight. The Human Genome Project is aimed at mapping and sequencing the entire human genome. DNA chips are loaded with information about human genes. The chip reveals specific information about the individuals’ health and genetic makeup (Richmond & Germov 2009).The technology has been described as a milestone by many in that it facilitates research, screening, and treatment of genetic conditions. However, there have been fears that the technology permits a reduction in privacy when the information is disclosed. Many argue that genetic information can also be used unfairly to discriminate against or stigmatize individuals (Willis 2009).

Doctors, hospitals and other care providers dispute that they should have access to the medical records and other health information of any patient citing that they need this information to provide the best possible treatment for proper planning. Insurers on the other hand claim they must have personal health information in order to properly process claims and pay for the care. They also insist that this will provide protection against fraud. Government authorities make the same arguments saying that in providing taxpayer-funded coverage to its citizens, it has the right to know what it is paying for and to protect against fraud and abuse. Researchers both medical and none nonmedical have the same argument saying that they need access to these information so as to improve the quality of care, conduct studies that will make healthcare more effective and produce new products and therapies (Easthope 2005).

All these arguments when analyzed are valid. This has brought about ethics issues that are involved with increased use and release of personal medical information. It is important that researchers and Insurers be given access to this information to improve research and when making claims respectively. But when those involved in these legitimate activities make demands that seem inappropriate, the records must be protected. Disclosure of personal medical information should also be subject to patients’ or families’ consent (Richmond et al. 2009).

Although the gene chip will enable an individual to know whether he/she has a genetic disease, that person may not want to know the information. Many people are frightened that a positive finding on a genetic test will result in discrimination and ostracism because the society will consider them abnormal (Easthope 2005). The other concern is that with genetic test information one might lose or might be unable to get a job or insurance. There have been concerns that with the knowledge of one’s medical information after a gene test, he/she might suffer a psychological problem especially when the results reveal that one suffers from a terminal disease or has high possibility of suffering from one (Willis 2009).

The testing is not a bad idea as such but it should not be done to children. This regards to personal autonomy where it would be better if the testing is delayed until an individual is old enough to make his or her own decision about the test. A person’s genetic information should be private and counselling should be done to elucidate the basis for and consequences of the test in question. Individuals should be allowed to choose when and which tests are done and with whom the results are to be shared with (Easthope 2005).

If proper regulation on the availability of gene information is not taken, this might arise to misuse of this information. The screening might lead to the creation of an entire class of unemployed people arising from job discrimination. Based on genetic information, an employer may avoid employing workers who they believe are likely to take sick leave, resign, or retire early for health reasons. Insurers using this information may also lead to class of uninsurable people (Willis 2009). This discrimination could be from diseases that run in a family to mental disorders that a person cannot help and as genetic information accumulates, people will find themselves stigmatized. There would also be concerns of psychological problems associated with knowing your own genetic makeup. If someone were to find out they have a high chance of developing a rare disease it would most probably significantly change their thinking on life. For reproduction, there could be compatibility problems of two individuals to have normal children. This would cause stress in a large number of people’s lives (Richmond et al. 2009).

The state should take the responsibility of coming up with laws and regulations on access and use of gene information. The information should be under the custody of the federal government and it should be coded and encrypted for security reasons. Any one in need of this information should approach the federal agency responsible.

List of References

Easthope, G., 2005. Alternative Medicines. In: Germov, ed. An Introduction to Health Sociology. Melbourne :Oxford University Press, pp. 332-348.

Richmond, K. and Germov, J., 2009. Sociology of Health Promotion. In: Germov, ed. An Introduction to Health Sociology. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp. 476-499.

Willis, E., 2009. The Human Genome Project: A Sociology of Medical Technology. In: Germov, ed. An Introduction to Health Sociology. Melbourne :Oxford University Press, pp. 328-341.