Genetic Science Ethics

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(For each of the scenarios below, discuss with your group the issues, and make a decision. Questions are meant to foster discussion, there are no right or wrong answers.)

1. An agricultural company has found a way to make tomatoes 50% larger by splicing new genes into the tomatoes. Will you:

a. Buy the tomatoes and have no problem eating them
b. Probably not buy or eat the tomatoes
c. Protest the company. It's not right to fool with mother nature!

2. You've found out that the child you (or your wife) carries has the gene for Tay-Sachs. Babies born with this disorder develop brain damage and usually die in childhood. What will you and your spouse do?


a. Test the fetus in early pregnancy to see if it has the disease
b. Do not test for the disease, because there is nothing that can be done anyway
c. Consider alternate reproduction strategies, like adoption or embryo screening.

3. Pet cloning is now available from a new biotech company. Your dog, Charlie, died last year but you can choose to clone your pet for about 20,000 dollars. What do you do?

a. Find a strand of Charlie's hair as soon as possible. Can't wait to see Charlie again!
b. Let sleeping dogs lie. (Don't clone Charlie)
c. Use the money to donate to a local shelter and get your next pup from a rescue.

4. A company can now create test tube babies according to parent specifications. The company can make sure that your child has all the traits you desire - hair color, intelligence, athletic ability, etc….. What do you do?

a. Sign me up, I want my child to be perfect.
b. I'd rather let nature take its course.
c. We might adjust some things to make sure the child is healthy (and has no genetic abnormalities).

5. Your family is known to have Huntington's disease. Huntington's is a disease that causes its victims to slowly lose their ability to speak, walk and function. Ultimately, Huntington's causes death. There is a test that will tell you whether you have the gene for Huntington's disease. What do you do?

a. I would take the test, so that I would be better prepared for the future.
b. I would not want to know.

6. You learn that you need a kidney transplant, but there are no donors available. A doctor suggests that you make a clone of yourself, so that the kidney would be a perfect match. What do you do?

a. One is enough of me, I'll wait for a donor.
b. Clone myself, two is better than one.

7. A government organization is proposing to have all citizens of the US submit a sample of their hair so that their DNA can be scanned and kept on file. Each person's DNA would be kept in a national database so that police could access the DNA when a crime was committed. Do you?

a. Support this legislation
b. Oppose this legislation
c. Suggest the legislation be modified, only people with criminal records should be scanned.

8. A company will do a DNA analysis if you submit a saliva sample. The analysis will tell you about genetic abnormalities and connect you with other people you are related to. The test costs $100.00. What do you do?

a. I would take the test, I would love to learn about my family
b. I would not want to know about relatives
c. I would want to know my relatives, but not about genetic abnormalities

9. An experimental procedure would allow you to add genes to your body. You can order certain genes, like a smart gene, or an athletic gene, or a musical ability gene. What do you do?

a. We would have the procedure done, I'd like to be better in school and at sports.
b. We would not have the procedure done, people should accept themselves the way they are

10. An insurance company is requiring individuals to get genetic testing performed to determine whether they have a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, or other diseases. They are requiring that all people wanting health insurance be tested. What do you do?

a. find another insurance company, that information is none of their business
b. submit my DNA for a test, I'd like to know anyway.
c. file a lawsuit against the company

11. Final Discussion

As a group, it is unlikely you agreed on every answer, but there was probably some overlap in your opinion with others. Write a short position paragraph that summarizes the areas that your group agrees upon as procedures that would be wrong or unethical and those procedures that would be right (or ethical) in certain circumstances.