Friday, December 21, 2007

Human Genetic Variation

Science magazine has chosen its Breakthrough Story of the Year: "Human Genetic Variation." Bob Park of the American Physical Society doesn't seem to have a strong opinion of it:
The journal Science announced in today's issue that "Human Genetic Variation" is the Breakthrough of the Year. It's been seven years since we learned how we differ from other species. With faster and cheaper sequencing technology, we're learning how we differ from one another.
In my opinion, this is a huge disaster, one guaranteed to rent great turmoil in our society. This is the dream of every bigot throughout history. Not only are the haters going to find "justifications" for their disgusting discrimination, but, more importantly, insurance companies and health providers everywhere throughout the US are going to find a great many reasons about why they should not cover you, me, and your neighbor. You have a BR78T gene? You're a loser, man. Who needs you? Society, frankly, can't afford you.

The United States is too late coming to the table of universal health care, and now the genomic era is here and insurance companies know it. The more individualized genetic information we have the worse off we are all going to be. (And it's a few decades too late for the United States to escape its established corporate tyranny.) In seven years you will have to submit to a genomic scan in order to purchase insurance, and if you have a wrong gene in the wrong place they will charge you an extra $100/yr, or they might well refuse to insure you at all. Just you watch.

This is going to be a disaster.

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