Ethics as With Darwin's Theory of Evolution Article Review

Pages: 4 (1281 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics

Ethics

As with Darwin's theory of evolution, gene testing has opened new frontiers in understanding medicine, as it allows us among other things to understand the degree to which we are predisposed to specific diseases and conditions (Miller, 2007). The case of Burlington Northern Railway v. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) marked the first time the law had addressed this issue. The railway had been conducting gene testing on employee for the identification of a specific disorder that in theory predisposed workers to carpal tunnel syndrome (Schafer, 2001). This example illustrates one of the ways in which companies can use genetic information -- in this instance to find ways to opt out of insurance and disability payments. Miller (2007) argues that such abuses of knowledge on the basis of bias have been common since the theory of evolution was put forth. This paper will examine the issue of genetic testing from both a deontological perspective and a utilitarian perspective in order to determine the risks posed by such testing. That genetic testing could be used to deny basic health care or employment opportunities on the basis of their genetic makeup is a frightening thought, but one that could occur.

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The deontological perspective holds that the ethics of a situation can be determined by weighing the inputs of the decision against a categorical imperative. This provides the situation with an absolute judgment of right and wrong, regardless of outcome, but deontological ethics only functions if there is a specific categorical imperative. Under normal circumstances in the United States or any other secular democracy is that the laws of the land reflect the prevailing ethical standards of the society. Thus, they are a good guidepost for the categorical imperative. Prior to the Burlington Northern case, the issue of genetic testing and the use of genetic testing in workplace situations had not been addressed in U.S. law. As the case was settled out of court, there remains no clear precedent in the U.S. legal system. Therefore, the deontological perspective lacks a categorical imperative in the form of legal guidance on which to draw.

American society as a whole does have some other potential sources of categorical imperative. It is not as though society is rudderless in the absence of clear laws governing an issue. The sense of right and wrong is vaguer, but there are guidelines in both the secular and religious spheres. At its core, deontological ethics is focused on the motivations behind the actions, rather than the actions themselves (Cline, 2011). In the case of genetic testing, this creates a conflict. There conflict arises because firms offer insurance and related protections are in business to earn profit, which means that they are focused on minimizing risk. A company may choose not to hire somebody if that person is likely to have an increased risk of a condition that will ultimately prove expensive to the company's health care plan. Likewise, insurance companies may deny coverage based on risks uncovered during genetic testing. These actions would be justified on the basis of a capitalist economic system where profit maximization is the primary social role of corporations. Yet, the Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws have been written specifically with the intent of eliminating discrimination in the workplace. That genes have not been explicitly written into the law is irrelevant -- the intent of Congress has been made clear over the past forty-seven years of legislation. Additionally, many religious texts hold equality as a central theme; others preach against doing harm to others. In either case, the categorical imperative in our society is generally to avoid harm to others. While the deontological case against gene discrimination is complicated, there is reason to believe that such discrimination runs counter to the prevailing mores of both our secular and religious societies.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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