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The Decision

In some instances, such as when someone has an unknown genetic disease, sequencing the genome makes sense to get to the cause of the disease, the Wall Street Journal says, but it adds: What about when people are healthy? Stanford University's Atul Butte and Robert Green from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School take up the debate.

Butte writes that healthy people should have their genomes sequenced. He lists four main reasons to do so: to recognize disease susceptibility and to try to mitigate it, for family planning purposes, to aid determine best drugs should you fall ill, and to diagnose unidentified illnesses. "But for many people, that genome sequence may provide the crucial first step to move from 'knowing thyself' to "helping thyself,' he writes.

Green, however, argues against sequencing for healthy people, saying that there are still a number of challenges to overcome before genome sequencing can safely be expand to a healthy population. Right now, he says, it could do more harm than good as researchers and clinicians don't yet know how to interpret results in the context of a healthy person. "Known mutations may or may not carry the same risk in the absence of family history," he says. "If a healthy person without a family history has a well-recognized heart-rhythm mutation, should we send them home with reassurance or surgically implant a pacemaker?"