Here's What I Think
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DNA and Stuff

DNA determines almost everything about our physical selves. That is: both the good and the bad!

And now it is getting much less expensive to have it recorded - and interpreted. While there is still room for a lot more science quite a few things are already clear.

From my nuclear science background I know that human beings are occassionally effected - changed - at the pre-fertilisation phase - by the background radiation (mostly from the sun, particularly when the sun is flaring). So occassionally a child is born with eyes of different colours, cleft pallets, Downes syndrome - conditions we do not think can be inherited. Variations caused by solar activity are probably the main cause of genetic variation and hence of evolution.

Many of our not-so-good inherited charteristics are fairly benign. So I have a very small mouth (but I can type!) and so my children have inherited it along with the dental bills! Alcoholism (or a tendency towards it) may be a similar inherited condition.

My interest in this is because my grandfather had haemophillia - I have this vision of him sitting in his barbers chair after losing a tooth bleeding profusely into a blue enamel bowl. [Then drinking the blood to recover the iron!]

But recent research (in America) indicates that about 25% of us will die around the traditional 70 years of conditions our parents died of - but the remaining 75% will live into their nineties!

We now know that some diseases are more prevalent in persons with certain genetic conditions. About 1 in 8 women will experience breast cancer and about 1 in 3 breast cancers have a genetic association. If these women had a DNA analysis conducted early enough earlier intervention would result in earlier detection and hence more effective treatment. Can we withhold this information from them? Or not encourage them to take the analysis?

This approach could be extended to early childhood conditions. So maybe every child should have a DNA analysis done and the doctors and parents informed of any "at risk" areas early in the child's life.

This has implications for holding a DNA bank - with privacy issues and access rights being sensitive.

This early analysis could remain on the record - and as science improves on what it can deduce from the DNA inform the parents/person of any further conditions which put the person at risk.

Research indicates that about 1 in 5 children born to a married women in a "stable" relationship is NOT conceived from the marriage partner. What to do about this is certainly a social issue! Should the "father" be informed?

What about in utero analysis? DNA can be readily sampled in the very early phases of pregnancy. Then a parent could be informed about any condition the foetus has which may lead to problems.

Abortion could then be an informed choice.

Of course the gender of the foetus would also be known.

So a mother whose father had heamophillia could check that the foetus did not have the same condition (only males can have it) and abort this foetus because if she became pregnant again the new foetus would have only 50% chance of being male and then only a 50% chance of being heamophilliac.

That seems a quite reasonable thing to do - saving a child being brought into the world requiring medical treatment for most of its life.

In vitro fertilisation is now widely practiced.

I have met a lawyer without a cohabiting partner in her late thirties who has chosen to have a child this way from a sperm bank.

Within a few days of the fertilisation before insertion into the womb the DNA can be analysed and the zygote abandoned - or one chosen without certain genetic conditions - or chosen based on gender.

That leaves the issue should a pregnant women be able to abort a foetus solely on the basis that the gender of the foetus is not as she would wish.

Should the state interfere at this level?

So permit if the women has 2 healthy children of the same gender and none of the other?

A DNA bank would greatly reduce the cost of policing by enabling the police to remove many persons from their suspect list very early in their investigation.

Rape investigations would be over very quickly - and hence hopefully much less common!

Why not!


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  © 2008 - Ian Mitchell
22A Goldie Street St Heliers, Auckland, Ph: 09 5851580
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