Discussion points on gene diagnostics

Determination of identity

The genetic fingerprint is based on the fact that certain regions of the DNA differ in each human (except identical twins) and are therefore distinctive. To determine the smallest amounts of genetic material (in principle, already a cell), which is found for example in hair, saliva, sperm or blood.

In order to identify a person, hereditary genetic material is automatically compared with material stored in a database (currently about 400, 000 data records in Germany). However, there is a very low risk of false positive or false negative attribution (ie someone is falsely accused of having their DNA equivalent to an existing sample or the sample being dismissed as not being identical even though their pattern exists in the database). This is because not all of the DNA, but only 12-16 loci are compared and this results in only a statistical probability of a match.

The genetic fingerprint allows a determination of the identity, but not further statements such as sex, skin color or hereditary diseases, as these are stored in other, so-called. Coding DNA sections (ie those with genetic information). It serves in Germany on the one hand for crime education (similar to the "classic" fingerprint), on the other hand for the clarification of paternity issues.

talking points

Information obtained from genetic analyzes is sensitive data that may allow conclusions about disease or genetic defects. There is a risk that this information will be used without authorization or used against the wearer. For example, employers could define genetic information as recruitment criteria or health insurance companies increase their contributions to the detriment of those affected.

Also ethical aspects are discussed intensively since genetic research exists. The discussion about preimplantation genetic diagnosis illustrates this as well as eg the question, which consequences the ever more sophisticated antenatal diagnosis has for parents, children and ultimately society. Are parents who knowingly give birth to a child with a genetic defect in the future (or are they already doing so?) Under the pressure of justification. What does that mean for our self-image and our acceptance behavior towards disabilities and diseases? Will our healthcare system in the future only incur follow-up costs for disabilities or not at all?

These questions are few of the vast range that both individuals and societies have to deal with today, showing that what is possible, necessary, desirable, and ethically defensible are not always identical.

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