"...an attempt to bring into focus and analyse key elements in the immense dictionary of received and contested ideas about degeneration in and beyond the mid nineteenth century."
The Island of Doctor Moreau
The following is from Human Molecular Genetics, 2nd edition -- which Molecular Medicine Today calls "truly a Rolls Royce amongst textbooks."
13.4.2. Without proper safeguards, the Human Genome Project could lead to discrimination against carriers of disease genes and to a resurgence of eugenics
Any major scientific advance carries with it the fear of exploitation. The Human Genome Project is no exception, and the perceived benefits of the project can also have a downside. For example, once we know all the human genes and can detect large numbers of disease-associated mutations, there will be enormous benefit in targeting prevention of disease to those individuals who can be shown to carry disease genes. However, the same information can also be used to discriminate against such individuals by insurance companies. For example, there is the very real prospect of insurance companies insisting on genetic screening tests for the presence of genes that confer susceptibility to common disorders, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and various mental disorders. Perfectly healthy individuals who happen to be identified as carrying such disease-associated alleles may then be refused life or medical insurance. Clearly, such discrimination is practised on a small scale at the moment; what is alarming to many is the prospect of discrimination against a very large percentage of the individuals in our society. It is also important to preserve people's right not to know. A fundamental ethical principle in all genetic counseling and genetic testing is that genetic information should be generated only in response to an explicit request from a fully informed adult patient.
Another troublesome area is the question of biological determinism and whether comprehensive knowledge of human genes could foster a revival of eugenics, the application of selective breeding or other genetic techniques to 'improve' human qualities (Garver and Garver, 1994). In the past, negative eugenic movements in the US and Germany severely discriminated against individuals who were adjudged to be inferior in some way, notably by forcing them to be sterilized. The possibility also exists of a preoccupation with genetic enhancement to positively select for heritable qualities that are judged to be desirable (see Section 22.6). In recognition of the above problems, the US Human Genome Project has devoted considerable resources to support research into the ethical, legal and social impact of the project. [...more]