Understanding DNA

For many many years, doctors and scientists have been able to advise people about things by looking at their family history.

By looking at the parent’s eye and hair colour, doctors can have a good guess at what colour eyes and hair their children might have. And looking at a family’s medical history, they can see if a child might be likely to get a certain illness.

Scientists are getting so clever these days, that they can read your DNA and find out all sorts of things about you – even before you’re born.

DNA is like the instruction book inside each cell. It can tell us loads of stuff, from how tall the baby is likely to be to what illnesses they might have when they are older. It’s all there if you know how to decode it.

However, babies aren’t really able to say what they want and some people are understandably a little uncomfortable with the idea of testing someone without their permission!

On the other hand, all that information could develop new treatments which might save lives – even their own lives in the future!

Seeing into a possible future’s all well and good but what if the future isn’t good? And what if it turned out not to be true – you’d worry yourself sick for years! After all, even scientists and machines can make mistakes!

And then there’s who else gets to know what the future has in store for you?

Businesses might like to know how you’re going to turn out and you might end up being turned down for a job because of what your DNA tells them! Would that be fair?

There’s a lot to thing about and it shows that if we don’t think carefully about things then there’s a chance we can get things turning out in a way we don’t want.

It takes a bit of thought to really work out how we can best use the science and technology at our disposal to make sure it’s fair and in the best interests of everyone.

Click here for more bioethical dilemmas!


Nuffield CouncilBene and Mal’s Bioethics series with support from Nuffield Council on Bioethics
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