Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing: Avoiding a Culture War

- Genetics in Medicine
Author/s: -Evans, James P -Green, Robert C
Journal: Genetics in Medicine
Year: 2009
Volume: 11
Issue: 8
Pages: 568
Start Page: 568

There are times in history when a new scientific idea becomes so powerful and compelling that it transforms the culture at large. This happened in the 17th century as the Copernican model of the universe gained traction and again in the 1940s as physicists emerged from their laboratories to usher in the atomic age. It may be happening now in genetics as genomic analysis promises to transform medical care and simultaneously becomes available to the world through direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing. Although nearly everyone agrees with the general prediction that genetics will ultimately revolutionize the practice of medicine, the emergence of DTC genetic testing has been marked by a noticeable degree of acrimony and soul searching within the community of academic genetics. DTC genetic testing raises numerous questions involving privacy, the nature of what constitutes a medical test, who should regulate access to genomic information, and how different individuals might understand and value such information. However, in parallel to these controversies, a clash of cultures is occurring, which may help explain the passion with which genetics is now routinely discussed both within and outside the field. Accusations of paternalism on the one hand or recklessness on the other risk igniting a culture war. In hopes of avoiding such an outcome it seems appropriate to take a deep breath and examine where we stand, where we should go, and how to get there in a way that takes advantage of the best from both worlds.