Banking on genes

Various high-profile genetic projects around the world are pushing the barriers of research. But are they trespassing on human rights?

David Nicholson(dn@davidnicholson.com)
Dec 3, 2000

LONDON Alongside the development of genetic research comes the study of gene ethics. Undoubtedly, the mapping out of the human genome has opened corridors full of doors for scientists researching disease preventions and cures. But public concern has been raised over who has access to gene databases and what could be done with information about an individual if it falls into the wrong hands.

Using someone's genes for research purposes without their consent is considered a breach of our human rights. In the UK, news that a doctor has taken genetic material without the patient's consent incites public outrage but laws in other countries are less rigid. Hence the considerable increase over the past five years of Western research projects in developing countries.

This year, researchers from three Harvard-affiliated institutions were under investigation by the US federal government following a complaint from a former colleague about their research practices. The...

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