Letter: The right to know your own genes

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The Independent Online
Sir: I wonder if I may add to your report of my address to the International Congress of Genetics ('Gene scientists urge caution', 16 August). It will soon be possible to find out whether prospective parents and their unborn children harbour the genes for any of the most crippling inherited diseases, or for predisposition to certain cancers or other abnormalities. To avoid discrimination against affected individuals by employers, insurance companies and others, confidentiality will be essential.

I believe that the medical benefits of genetic screening outweigh its social dangers, and that everyone has the right to be given what information he asks for about his own genetic make-up and that of his children. But no one has a right to information about the genetic make-up of other people or their children. Genetic screening should become acceptable, provided the law guarantees that exclusive right to information as well as parents' right to individual choice.

Yours faithfully,

M. F. PERUTZ

Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Cambridge

19 August

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