Defective Genes are Like Pathogenic bacteria and viruses the Law Must Control

As quoted in The New Diagnostics by Dorothy Nelkin and Laurence Tancredi, 1989 (pg 13-14)

Although the old eugenic generalizations have been cast off, the logic behind them persists, refueled from diagnostic tests and justified in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and cost.  Thus some geneticists suggest the social importance of improving the “gene pool.”  For example, geneticist Margery Shaw, convinced that every Mendelian genetic trait will eventually be diagnosed prenatally, has asserted that:  “The law must control the spread of genes causing severe deleterious effects, just as disabling pathogenic bacteria and viruses are controlled.”  She argues that parents may be liable for failing to respond to information about potential genetic disorders by controlling their reproduction, and that the police powers of the state could be employed to prevent genetic risks.  Other geneticists assume that families informed of genetic problems will voluntarily eliminate defective fetuses.  References to the “pollution of the gene pool,” “genetically healthy societies,” and “optimal genetic strategies” are beginning to appear in the scientific discourse.”  The language of geneticists reveals their expectations.  They have called the large-scale project to map the human genome a “quest for the Holy Grail” and an effort to create the “book of Man.”  The computer program that generates the genome is called Genesis.

The authors quote Shaw from:

Margery W. Shaw, “Conditional Prospective Rights of the Fetus,” Journal of Legal Medicine 63 (1984): 63-116.

The authors provide this note regarding the ‘language of geneticists reveal their expectations’:

See discussion of this language in the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine #83-600502 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1983), and in Kaye, The Social Meaning of Biology.

Note the author’s reference to ‘efficiency’ as an element of eugenic thinking.  Note too the author’s observation that geneticists believe that with the ‘right’ genetic counseling, parents will exercise “voluntary unconscious selection.” (See Osborn.)

1 comment

  1. Dr c jones

    It is critical people know that Eugenics philosophy did not
    stop following the war,it simply went underground.
    Excellent,possibly Life saving information.

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