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Razib Khan
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 TeasersGene Expression Blog
Genetic Testing

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Article in The New York Times:

Genetic testing raises some vexing ethical questions, like whether it will cause unnecessary anxiety or lead to more medical procedures, including abortions.

Now, as the number of tests and the money to be made from them are exploding, another question is being asked by professionals in the field themselves. Is it ethical for genetic counselors, who advise patients on whether to undergo testing, to be paid by the companies that perform the tests?

While it might not always be immediately obvious to patients, some counselors offering them advice in hospitals and doctors’ offices work for the commercial genetic testing companies, not for the hospitals or doctors themselves.

Conflict of interest in anything medical is pretty bad. On the other hand, medical care is expensive. But I want to add something here: the pre-natal screens by Genzyme are really, really, bad value-for-cost. For example, a non-insurance “sticker price” of thousands of dollars for 200 traits. Speaking from personal experience here. Also, don’t think you can ever get genetic material sent to Genzyme back. I called and tried this for a few months, and there was no response (I wanted to do typing of tissue myself).

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Genetic Testing, Personal Genomics 
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There’s a variable in the GSS, GENESELF, which asks:

Today, tests are being developed that make it possible to detect serious genetic defects before a baby is born. But so far, it is impossible either to treat or to correct most of them. If (you/your partner) were pregnant, would you want (her) to have a test to find out if the baby has any serious genetic defects?

This is relevant today especially. First, the technology is getting better and better. Second, couples are waiting longer to start families. Unfortunately this question was only asked in 1990, 1996, and 2004. But on the positive side the sample sizes were large.

I decided to combine 1990 and 1996 into one class. Also, I combined those who were very liberal with liberals, and did the same for conservatives. For political party ideology I lumped strong to weak identifiers. For intelligence I used WORDSUM. 0-4 were “dull,” 5-7 “average,” and 8-10 “smart.” For some variables there weren’t results for the 1990s.

The biggest surprise for me is that there wasn’t much difference between the 1990s and 2004. The second biggest surprise was that the differences between demographics were somewhat smaller than I’d expected, and often nonexistent. Below is a barplot and table with the results.


Yes to fetal genetic tests by demographic
Demographic 1990s 2004
Male 69 67
Female 68 65
White 67 65
Black 79 72
Hispanic * 71
Less than HS 72 67
High School 68 65
Junior College 64 69
Bachelor 71 65
Graduate 69 71
Protestant 69 65
Catholic 62 63
Jewish 95 78
No Religion 78 69
Dull 74 71
Average 65 65
Smart 71 66
Liberal 80 77
Slight Liberal 70 64
Moderate 70 69
Slight Conservative 68 66
Conservative 59 52
Democrat 73 74
Independent 69 67
Republican 65 58
Yes to abortion on demand 80 75
No to abortion on demand 61 56
Bible Word of God 63 61
Bible Inspired Word 68 65
Bible Book of Fables 82 75
Evolution definitely true * 81
Evolution probably true * 70
Evolution probably not true * 67
Evolution definitely not true * 58





(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"