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Ethical issues associated with the Human Genome Project

Peter Baume

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Abstract

The Human Genome Project is one activity where glimpses of the future are visible now. Some particular possible ethical consequences of the enterprise are clear already – they are devilishly difficult and concern many of our basic understandings of what it is to be human.

Article Extract

Aims of the Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project is an international program of research that will change society worldwide and affect every person. It is a 15-year commitment to a continuous research effort that began about 10 years ago and receives $US200 million annually in the USA alone. Applications from its discoveries will probably continue throughout the twenty-first century.

The underlying premise of the Human Genome Project is that increased knowledge about genotypes will be beneficial for humans, particularly where the basis for a particular disease is due partly to the possession of a particular gene or combination of genes.

The Project seeks to determine the make-up of every human gene, with the eventual aim of being able to improve health by altering the genotypes of individuals to eliminate or offset undesirable or dangerous genes. To the extent that the Project aims to know about all human genes, it is likely to have an effect on all human beings. The application of knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project may be consequent to knowledge about genes, but it is inevitable and is alluded to already.

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