An Information Society

Imagine a state where medical professionals had immediate access to information that would assist in diagnosing health issues. Imagine a state where science reduced the likelihood of wrongful prosecution and imprisonment. Imagine a state where all citizens could know with the click of a button where the branches of their family trees extended. DNA databases can provide all these benefits–and, perhaps, just as many threats. Civil libertarians have sounded the alarm on proposed legislation in Arizona would require a wide range of public employees–and recently deceased bodies that come into the possession of local medical examiners–to provide DNA samples. Their forced contributions to DNA databases would be invaluable to researches, but would turn some facets of jurisprudence upside down. What risks to civil liberties do DNA databases present? Do they outweigh the benefits? Does a person have the right to keep his DNA private? Do dead people have any rights regarding the use of their DNA?

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25 Responses to An Information Society

  1. KT says:

    I’ve always found it so weird that people don’t want their dead bodies touched, even if it is beneficial for the world as a whole. I don’t think that anyone should be forced to do anything risky regarding there personal information. DNA testing hasn’t been exploited by big businesses from what I can tell, but it is something extremely personal. Much more personal than simply donating an organ, which can also offer great medical help. There are two main types of DNA testing, one tracks family history, and looks into medical risks and history. If this information was public, people with higher risks for certain diseases may face higher insurance prices. Family’s could be shattered if heritage isn’t what it’s supposed to be. But it could also bring together long lost siblings or find the families of adopted children. I think DNA testing should be voluntary, even though it could provide huge medical breakthroughs.

  2. E says:

    I think people should have the right to keep their DNA private. If they don’t want people experimenting and testing their DNA while they are alive, I’m sure their view won’t change after they die. Also, if a DNA database is hacked, lots of people could lose important personal information that they might not want anyone else to see. On the other hand, DNA testing could be extremely helpful to people whose families have deadly, hereditary diseases. The person could work hard at living the right lifestyle to try to fight the hereditary disease.

  3. William Sutton says:

    I think that personally peoples bodies after death are still theirs to decide what should be done with it. What do I mean? Usually upon death people have preparations to what should be done with their bodies and if they didn’t its the responsibility of those responsible for them to decide what should be done. So if those who are responsible (and technically own the DNA that is in question) decide that it is OK then that is alright by me. DNA technology is revolutionary and will eventually help take the world into a new and great age of technological prosperity but the wishes of individual people should not be trampled on to achieve this.

  4. x says:

    I do not think that DNA should be taken from dead bodies unless given permission by the family. Certain religions prohibit the touching of dead bodies outside of preparations, so to taint that would be terrible for the person and their family. I do, however, believe that DNA testing is a great thing. It provides for many cures for diseases, families coming together, and just knowing more about you and your body, but it should all be consensual. It is not right to do anything without consent, but especially not taking away what makes you who you are.

  5. Niamke Buchanan says:

    This is a tricky subject… Personally I believe people do not have a right protecting them from forceful taking of their DNA. Since you have no right to withhold your DNA, the government can take it. However, from a moral, we-need-legislation standpoint, I say minors should only be allowed to have their DNA taken with the custodial parent(s) permission; adults can make the decision for themselves and can request their DNA be removed from the system if it was taken as a minor. Those guilty of crimes against another entity, and therefore voiding their rights temporarily, should have their DNA taken regardless because of safety and identification purposes. They cannot request their DNA be removed from the system after their sentence is served.

    In response to some others (and the issue of cadavers), there was a joke question along the lines of “at what point does grave robbing become archaeology?” How many generations will it take before it’s okay to test the corpses for diseases and other scientific purposes? How many generations must pass? Should their bloodline end first? People have wills that state what they want done with their bodies in their death; include a clause about scientific autopsies. If no clause is in place, there must be a clearly outlined method for disposal that does not include DNA testing (e.g. “Upon my death, I wish to be brought to a funeral home, dressed in my best clothes, cremated, and my ashes dumped into Sardis Lake, promptly, and with no deviation from this statement.”) If neither are present, TEST AWAY; the person is dead and has no rights anymore.

  6. Olivia Viguerie says:

    Though this would be a question of privacy, the logical thing to do would be to offer up your DNA for testing regardless of whether it was legal for it to be forcefully taken. There’s not really a threat to your person in DNA extraction, and as unless you were concerned about potentially discovering something in your family tree that you did not wish revealed, I personally cannot see much of a reason that it would be necessarily wrong to have a database of DNA.

    Really, the system could just require DNA testing upon birth with the regular shots. If the parents are particularly opposed, it could be waived, but otherwise, the information should be strictly for medical research – and furthermore, no one should have access to the information other than the person to whom the DNA belongs. Even then, it shouldn’t be able to be accessed until said person has either come of age or has declared independence. Anyone using DNA for research should not be given the identity of the subject to whom it belongs, either.

    Also, I understand if a person doesn’t want their body desecrated for science upon their death, then they should have that right, but otherwise – they’re dead and overall it would benefit society.

    To make sure that that last sentence isn’t the last thing in this comment because honestly, I doubt anyone would read this entire entry before getting angry. If research accomplished from one person’s or one family tree’s DNA becomes profitable, then that individual or family should benefit.

  7. Olivia Viguerie says:

    Logically, it doesn’t make much sense to me to be concerned with your DNA being used for research. Personally, I think they should pull DNA from everyone upon birth unless the parents object. With this system, however, no one other than the person who’s DNA was extracted should be able to see their own DNA (this would account from some perhaps scandalous detail breaking apart families), but even then that person should have to wait until they are at voting age, or are declared an independent. Any facility using DNA for research should not know the identity of the person to whom it belongs, and any profit made off of research from a particular person or family tree should have to go through proper channels to see that that family or person is compensated for their contribution.

    Truly, it doesn’t make much sense to not want to allow just a small piece of you to potentially better research and the world because what if eventually a loved one is suffering from something that you are immune to – research with your DNA might have yielded a cure. As long any equipment is sterile, there really isn’t a risk; it’s not as if personal information other than a name and birthdate is required to identify and distinguish DNA from one another. All other sensitive information in our country is in an online database somewhere, why would anyone need to worry about this being hacked?

    Furthermore, I completely understand that some people might have religious objections to anyone desecrating their bodies once they are gone. If they wish, or if their family wishes to keep their body from being used for science upon their death, then that would be their choice. If there is not a strong belief against the use of their DNA, however, it would seem completely ethical to use their DNA for research – especially if they passed from a genealogical disease or a rare condition. There’s actually more morality behind the use of DNA for the public good over the conservation of a corpse for the peace of one person.

  8. Cameron Thomas says:

    DNA testing should most definitely be voluntary. The beautiful (yet corrupted) thing about due-process is that it gives power to the people. It gives insight into motives instead of just taking into account the aftermath of things. Human empathy and sympathy is what, in my opinion, makes us the superior beings. Involuntary DNA testing would make everything strictly dependent on the aftermath, which does not always tell the entire story. It is understandable that objectivity is the ultimate goal, but sometimes subjectivity changes the entire perspective on things.

    However, I do feel as if it is fair-game on deceased people, but there needs to be some type of detailed process in place, so they can stick to it. I’m not saying they should have full jurisdiction to do an entire experiment on someone’s dead mother, but a simple DNA testing probably used for unanimous statistics would be fine.

  9. Nathan Lee says:

    The main issue with the forceful recording of personal information is the potential for profit. If there is a potential for profit, people may be exploited and immoral practices may occur. The risks do not outweigh the benefits because the potential for misuse still exists because many hospitals are not government regulated and function as businesses. Even if all hospitals were government controlled, everyone should have the right to keep their DNA private. Because it is a part of them, there should be a way to sign up if one wants to give their DNA, just like how there are organ donation regulations and forms.

  10. B says:

    There is a danger in forcing DNA testing. Taking from dead bodies is moral or nonmoral for many people. Many don’t want to take things from already dead people, saying either it’s for religious or emotional straining for the family of the dead. DNA tracking itself can be very dangerous, especially if it goes to the wrong hands. Tracking and selling information about people is already around and forcing government employees can make it more dangerous for them because it would be easier to know their information. There are many benefits but there are more fears that make it not worthwhile to many.

  11. Guillermo says:

    There should definitely be DNA databases, but legal protections should be placed on it, so companies cannot copyright DNA and then sue people for possessing or using it in research. The existence of DNA databases would be very useful in researching cures for diseases. I think that these databases are going to be a cornerstone of the next stages of scientific research, and thus am a proponent of creating these databases. The only downside I can think of is that people’s DNA can be sold without their consent.

  12. Linda Arnoldus says:

    Just a few months ago, I took an AncestryDNA test to find out more about my heritage. I thought it was enlightening and gave me a sense of clarity and self assurance to know my roots. I think that if the government suddenly released a notice that we all had to have our DNA on record, I wouldn’t object. If there is more research in the field of DNA, it might be possible to edit out diseases (CRISPR is working on it), have everyone know their heritage, and make future generations healthier. There is risk that comes with this, for example, selling DNA information to companies, identity theft, etc. but every good decision has side effects. As for the DNA from dead people, I think it should be the choice of the family.

  13. Khytavia Fleming says:

    I believe a person does have a right to keep their DNA pirvate. It’s their body and they should be able to do what ever they want with it. I think it is mentally insane to force someone to share their DNA. This is a democracy not a dictatorship. However, I do understand the need for medicine to advance and cures to become avaliable. I agree with ASKING individuals if they would like to share their DNA or not. On the other hand, there are some cons to making individuals DNA visible to the world. People could lose their jobs because of a disease (like alcholism) they did not know they could inherit, which their employer could see as unfit to do the job. Also, this could prevent people who are seeking a job to not find one because of a disease they might have on their DNA strand. Moreover, allowing everyone’s DNA to be visible makes citizens vulnerable to terrorist attacks through the form of a airborne gases that could spread a virus that many Americans may not be immune to. If we were to start collecting DNA samples of Americans blood, there should be a set group of individuals that gradully grows with cautons and deep back ground checks. Furthermore, the scientist looking at the DNA collected should have to sign a nondisclousre form with harsh penalties if they are broken.

  14. alex magee says:

    Very interesting. Several cold cases have been solved by using the DNA of criminals. In some cases, the culprit is the DNA of deceased individuals while the wrong person remains behind prison wall for years, even decades. As a scientist myself, I welcome the database of DNA and fingerprints. A few years ago there was an idea for children to bite into Soft wax that would harden into a dental record while simultaneously store their DNA. And in the hypothetical case that a small child is taken or lost then that DNA sample is a valuable tool. Though mandatory DNA samples could cause a guilty conscience, the good out weighs the bad. People drop personal DNA each time they touch something, so naturally, DNA is basically omnipresent. Lastly, the fate of the dead is decided by the closest relatives living.

  15. T says:

    DNA data bases would be very beneficial for many situations. However, in order for this to work, there would need to be many rules and restrictions placed upon the system. It should only be used in dire situations, federal investigations, or if the person of subject gives consent. Otherwise, this system would be a complete invasion of privacy and would violate natural human rights. The issue is, though, that this type of regulation is very difficult to upkeep. People could potentially lie about their reasons for accessing the data base and instead use it for evil purposes. As for dead people, if they didn’t want their DNA public when they were alive, then it shouldn’t go public as soon as they’re dead. For this, no person should be able to access a dead person’s DNA if they did not give written consent while still living. With these ideas in mind, DNA data base systems have both advantages and disadvantages, all of which depend on basic principle and moral of the investigator.

  16. Bubba says:

    Honestly, if you list out the pros and cons to the release of DNA records to their respective hosts/people, the pros probably outweigh the cons. If DNA records are open to people, employment would most likely be more difficult for those who are more vulnerable to some detectable diseases. However, at the same time, being about to be aware of these disease could saves thousands of lives. In addition to this, the release of DNA records would also increase the amount of patients visiting the hospital because of this. But overall, it would be most beneficial for everyone to know their personal genetic differences and potential illnesses. I do also think that if someone does not want to know their genetic background, that they have the option to ignore it. People should not force or examine other people’s DNA without their consent. And even though doing this, they should have rights to keep this information secure, jobs, schools, and other branches would probably ask for these information, so there will be no way of keeping it private, unless you lie.

  17. Emma Jones says:

    The potential pros in medicine, crime, etc. outweigh the cons. For this to work and be fair, though, there would need to be extensive regulation. There would also need to be some type of law in place that prevented people from being discriminated against because of their DNA, whether that discrimination occur in employment, socially, insurance, or in terms of medical care.

  18. X says:

    Leaking DNA information could lead to potential tracking and exploitation. However, I do not think they outweigh the benefits. It is very important for accurate information to be gained by the government, by the FBI, to reduce the number of false prosecutions and imprisonment. A person does have the right to keep his or her DNA private, though I do believe they should make the decision to share it for medical discoveries. Dead people no longer have their own ability to make their own decisions, so it is understandable for the government to use their DNA. However, the government should probably ask the dead person’s immediate family about the usage of his or her DNA. Overall, I think that it is a good idea to have a DNA database, but there needs to be established regulations and restrictions on who has access to it and what it should be used for.

  19. M says:

    People have a right to privacy, and genetic data falls into the bucket of things that are property. It is illegal to take a kidney out of a dead person without their consent, so why should it be legal to do almost the same thing. I feel like requiring DNA tests is a violation of people’s personal privacy to their “property’ because as strange as it is to think about, body is property. While there are pros to having a DNA database, the question we have to ask ourselves is “do these pros outweigh the ethical dilemma we are faced with?” I believe the answer is no. People should have the opportunity to test their DNA and discover their heritage and genome, but that opportunity should not be mandated.

    • J says:

      I don’t think equating gathering someone’s DNA and taking someone’s kidney is not a fair comparison. In order to take someone’s Kidney you need to cut into someones body and remove an organ from their body. It can also be sold on the black market for profit. In order to gather someone’s DNA the most you need is a singular hair and its use would be to help scientific progress. I do however agree that people’s right to privacy extends to DNA.

  20. J says:

    I believe that DNA should be protected under its own set of privacy laws. It is yours so you should have the right to choose whether or not to have your DNA in the database. If your DNA is inside the database I do not think that businesses should have access to your DNA. That information should be reserved for medical and law enforcement uses only. Upon death, I do believe that you should have the right to protect your own DNA. Personally, I don’t understand why someone would want to keep this information private as it is of no harm to them but can help further science. However, compromise is necessary in all politics so I would implement a opt out system. This means that you have the option to choose that your DNA not be collected should you choose to but more data will be collected than if it was an opt in system.

  21. random says:

    I think that the government should not have control over people’s DNA samples if they don’t want to give it up. Of course it would be cool to be able to identify your family ancestry, but that should be voluntary. I also think people should have an equal chance at a job if they meet the requirements. Giving an employer your DNA sample could hinder your chance of getting a job because you might start dying of a disease that hasn’t shown symptoms yet. If you’re qualified to get a job, you should have as much of a chance as anyone else. Using DNA samples for an investigation I think would be ok, because then less people would be put in jail when they shouldn’t be. Overall I think there are benefits to having a DNA database, but I think everyone should be able to choose to give DNA samples and not be required to give it up to employers.

  22. Joshua Seid says:

    Government-owned DNA databases can have an immense effect on society, but the question arises… should they? This can cause many problems, such as discrimination to those with genetic diseases or mutations. Along with these problems, there are also opportunities: more accurate prosecutions, easy identifications, and immediate information on a person when the occasion calls. Despite the benefits, I believe this information should only be volunteered as it is the property of the host. Everyone will get their own decision as to whether the pros outweigh the cons.

    Regarding the question of the dead, I see that all bodies are simply bodies… nothing more or less. There is no difference between one and another. Everything that has made that person who they were is basically gone. With the body being owned by whoever the person willed it to, the information it holds should also be of their possession, so it is their choice, once again, as to if they desire to volunteer this something such as a DNA database.

  23. TL says:

    I believe people have the right to keep their DNA private. However, the government should be able to access the DNA in a database with approval. Government infringement could cause a lack of trust from the public. The benefits of the DNA database being used can outweigh the consequences. There would be a decrease in wrongful convictions and an increase in medical resources. Dead people have no say of their body. Therefore, their data should be used by the government.

  24. Samantha says:

    I think the idea of DNA databases are a great idea. However, there need to be limitations such as privacy precautions. DNA databases pose a threat to privacy, and in a way, it can be seen as a violation of the 4th amendments as it is a personal invasion by the government. The benefits do hold a lot of weight though. It could help the crime rate possibly go down in the country overall, also reduce the 3rd leading cause of death – medical mistakes. Dead people’s rights to DNA should be held by their next of kin so ultimately their family and closest relative is making an important decision for them. The benefits may not outweigh the negative effects, but it comes pretty close.

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