[Editor’s note: Sophisticated biological tests that can uncover latent problems or predict future diseases have been developed over the past few years. Such tests have important clinical applications, but they also have found their way into nonclinical contexts in which they provide unprecedented threats to our traditional concepts of privacy and personal autonomy. So say Dorothy Nelkin and Laurence Tancredi, coauthors of a new book, Dangerous Diagnostics: The Social Power of Biological Information (New York, Basic Books Inc., 1989).]

Nelkin, a professor of sociology at New York University, says one of the aims of the book is to generate discussion and open debate about the social implications of new diagnostic tools emerging from genetics and the neurosciences. “There’s a growing concern regarding the implications of predictive testing,” Nelkin said during a recent tele-phone interview.

Throughout her career as an educator and writer, Nelkin said, she has tended to focus on...

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