Think Long & Hard Before Peeking Into Your Genetic Future: Arthur Caplan
"Remember that genetic testing is still in its infancy," Caplan cautions. "[It] is about risk and probabilities—and the future is shaped by your genes and your lifestyle." While the presence of some genes may be a nearly foolproof indicator that you will get a disease, there are other genes that only raise your risk by 5 per cent. Not to mention, the quality of lab testing today is far from perfect—and the results may mean different things for different people. That's why Caplan suggests having a genetic counselor on hand when people receive these kind of results. They can help guide you through the implications of the results, and determine the best course of action to take. Despite the fact that a new study suggests most people are capable of learning about their risk of receiving or transmitting breast cancer without being traumatized, Caplan still believes it's worthwhile to have some sort of counseling available. Finally, he also worries that a lack of privacy could allow your personal genetic information to fall into unwanted hands.
"Genetic testing is a very useful new tool for helping us stay healthy," he concludes. "But doctors, counselors and even legislators need to get involved so that genetic knowledge can be properly understood and kept private." Caplan's insights on bioethics and health care reform are highly regarded and regularly cited in major media. Currently, he is the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU's Langone Medical Center. He is also the author or editor of over thirty books and 550 papers on the subject. In his talks, he addresses the monumental societal and technological changes occurring every day—and how we have to alter our health care practices to reflect these shifts.