Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The ethics of DNA databasing

The Economist devotes a column to one of my long standing research interests: DNA databases.

The questions posed is: "This house believes that people's DNA sequences are their business, and nobody else's."

Craig Venter and Artie Caplan argue opposing pointes of view. While it is great that magazines discuss such an important topic, the Economist presents the debate in the wrong way as it lines up a scientist who clearly things that research is needed and the bioethicist who clearly things that reflection is needed before and while research is conducted. It perpetuates the idea that ethics is against science, which is often not the case. In fact, in their opening statements, both intellectuals end up advocating stronger genetic privacy: Venter advocates that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is adopted by all nations around the world; Caplan concludes that, "Unless something can be done to minimise the latter, the case for genetic privacy is quite strong."

Again it is a matter of how issues are presented: if they are complex but non-polarized, they should be presented as, as complex and non-polarized. Not as a matter of winning and losing the argument.

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