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Elliot Gershon

University of Chicago
Genetics and Human Behavior
Objective: to review the potential benefits and adverse effects of genetic tests that may develop, that effectively predict mental illness or variation from the norm on behavior traits. Method: A review is offered of the history of genetic-based political policies and racial discrimination. The current status of genetic research in mental disorders is described. Anticipated genetic progress, and derivative tests and limits on their predictive power are considered. Results: There does exist a potential for invidious stigmatization and discrimination, based on genotypes of individuals and allele frequencies in communities, in various transactions such as health care access, employment, and education, as well as in more intimate decisions including choice of spouse and decisions to become a parent. Conclusions: The major uses of valid genetic tests for human behavioral traits will be for development of knowledge on pathophysiology of illness, and for development of new treatment and educational strategies to deal with illness. Some extension of genetic tests into predictions about specific individuals may well occur. Awareness of the potential for discrimination, and a determination to develop culturally sensitive and fair applications of genetic tests, is required to avoid adverse effects on individuals and communities.
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