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EDITORIAL: Knowing your medical future



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When it comes to 
uncommon characteristics, “It’s in my genes” is the classic explanation for everything from weight gain to sexuality.

In recent years geneticists have been able to test people to see whether they’re genetically predisposed to certain diseases.

Researchers from Boston University have taken this a step further through advanced medical 
screening.

They’ve developed a convenient blood test that can determine what diseases you’re likely to get and predict your life 
expectancy.

This sort of development may at first sound like the dystopian world of “Gattaca,” but in reality this has significant potential to help people prepare themselves for illness.

It does, however, pose some significant 
drawbacks.

Imagine you went to the doctor, took a test, and they told you that within the next 20 years you’re likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

That would change your life.

You’d be able to plan years in advance and potentially undergo treatment to prevent disease from happening.

At the same time, you’d constantly be worried and stressed about the slightest sign of illness.

If someone told you you’d only live to 65 with your current eating, you might be motivated to get in shape and try to live longer, or you could go on a crazy hedonistic binge at age 64.

It really depends on the individual, which is why this sort of development is more complicated than it may seem at first.

We could make some destructive choices knowing that our end might be near.Insurance companies also stand to muddle this development.

After all, how does an insurance company make money off someone who knows they’re going to get a life-threatening disease at a certain age?

Test recipients could just wait until they’re at an age where they’re likely to develop a condition, and then sign up for insurance.

Or, if they know when they’re going to die, they could buy a life insurance policy the year before.

The basic idea of insurance is betting you’ll get sick or betting you’ll die.

If you’re right, the company pays health care costs to you or your beneficiary.

If not, they keep your money.

This means the lobby against these sort of tests is going to be enormous, and insurance companies may classify the results as pre-existing conditions and deny people insurance.

Because of these ramifications, it’s unlikely this kind of genetic testing is going to actually become mainstream.

It’s a tragedy for a great many people because this could be extremely helpful. It can give people insight into their health they didn’t have before.

If it does take off, and you’re ever thinking about getting tested, it’s 
important to take your mental state into consideration.

In some cases, it may actually be better to leave your medical future a mystery.

Are you the type of person to use the knowledge to try to improve your life, or are you inclined to let bad results get to you?

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