Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

wrapped Christmas present

wrapped Christmas present

Should you buy it?

Irina Raicu

Earlier this week, USA Today’s website Reviews.com published a list titled “The 15 Most Popular Things Our Readers Bought on Cyber Monday.” Second on that list was the genetic testing kit being sold by 23andMe. On a related note, the Chicago Tribune reported that this year’s “Cyber Monday was the largest online shopping day in US history,” and that Amazon had announced that “its best-selling items include Amazon Echo devices, Instant Pot pressure cookers and 23 and Me DNA tests.” Wired writes that “[b]etween Black Friday and Cyber Monday, leading personal genomics company AncestryDNA sold about 1.5 million of their testing kits designed to provide insights into your ethnicity and familial connections.”

All over TV and the internet, ads pitch DNA-testing kits as “the perfect holiday gift.”

In the spirit of giving, Margaret McLean, Associate Director/Director of Bioethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, gives potential buyers a little more to think about: she asks us to consider what the recipient of such a gift “might do with the information it provides,” as well as what the company selling the kit might do with the genetic profile revealed by the testing.

In her new article “What A Gift!,” McLean notes that “[g]enetic testing leaves us facing an ethical conundrum that cuts both ways.” Read her article to find out why “there something about this deepest information that requires our deepest thinking.”

 

Photo by Hades2K, cropped, used under a Creative Commons license.

Dec 1, 2017

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