Thursday, 28 July 2011

Taking The Test

The genetic phenomenon has always been rife in healthcare, but a relatively new process known as taking the test is fast becoming a standard procedure. It's not just any old test either. No paper, pens, or mental prowess are required, just a swab of cells on a cotton bud or a drop of blood. It's available online and via the NHS if you're interested. Hypochondriacs may think this a blessing, (and I count myself as one), but it's not a test to undergo lightly, nor a contest that can be won. Testing your genes is incredible you may think, look how far science has come. Why wouldn't you not want to know your genetical risks? Primarily because the results may not be to your liking. The question that's causing a stir is not should I test my genes?, but is knowing better than not knowing?

The Beeb recently highlighted this screening service in two thought provoking documentaries. They followed individuals weighing it up and undergoing the full process. Trained health professionals provided pre and post test support. Despite these docs well put togetherness, I found myself directing angry outbursts at the TV. Annoyed at the anguish people put themselves through deciding whether or not to take the test, and then facing the inevitable after-affects. The science equivalent to Mystic Meg, predict your genetic fate so you can take precautions. This is serious pioneering stuff isn't it? What I think it boils down to is this: we're basically a bunch of control freaks. Our genetic constitution is just a new area to conquer and control.

Am I being too pragmatic? Yes, but rightly so. I question the benefits of taking the test. Does it really reduce the risk of disease? It's what we're led to believe. There's no doubt it increases mental insanity. Test positive for a genetic spelling mistake and your quality of life is in jeopardy. Do you take drastic action or try to live with the knowledge? Many women with the BRAC gene have selected the former. The female sex is prepared or forced to mutilate itself at any cost, or at least that's how it comes across. Having the gene is a risk, but it's not a guarantee. Nor does removing the breasts and ovaries necessarily lessen the probability. Genes are complex cells which do not always express as they are decreed. There is no single cause to disease. It's more like a traffic jam, with cars blocking the lane and the signal out of sync with the traffic. A combination of factors are ultimately to blame.

If offered would you take the test? I think I'd politely decline. Knowledge we have come to assume is power, but it can also cause unnecessary pain.