The Risks of Knowing
The modern idea of “personalized medicine” can be considered in many aspects to be a great resource in the treatment and prevention of disease, and can lead to the development of successful treatments for those illnesses that currently have no cure. However, personalized medicine is not without risks, which can potentially cause emotional and physical trauma. But he question is, when do these risks begin to outweigh the benefits? The risks associated with personalized medicine outweigh the benefits only when it begins to be misused and misunderstood, especially with regards to genetic testing.
Personalized medicine is considered to be the “most important source of information about [one’s] future health and risk of illness.” (14) In many cases, as in that of long QT syndrome, the information provided by genetic testing revealed valuable information about this little known condition with severe consequences, and helped individuals at risk to take preventative measures to prevent their untimely demise. As in this case, and probably many others, scientists predict that as a result of personalized medicine, “the precise description of individual illness is likely to be greatly enhanced by specific molecular information.” (17)
However, people are beginning to misuse the information gathered from genetic testing. It is here where the risk arises. It may not necessarily be a physical risk, but it is there nonetheless. Though in this case DNA testing provided much needed answers, it typically is not always so clear-cut, allowing for the misinterpretation of the applications and results of genetic testing. For example, the use of genetic testing to predict disorders with “significant environmental contributions, such as situational depression, alcoholism and nicotine addiction,” while providing an opportunity to institute preventative measures, may also bear significant consequences by potentially “stigmatizing a susceptible person, or even...