The West family has become the first to have the genes of each family member sequenced for non-medical reasons, reports Mark Henderson of the Times Online. John and Judy West, and their two teenage children paid Illumina around $200,000 to have their genes read. "Mr West told The Times that he hoped that his family’s DNA data would benefit their health and advance research into genetic contributions to disease," Henderson says. The issue has raised some controversy, however, as ethicists and doctors debate the usefulness of a healthy teenager having his genome sequenced for any reason other than to find a cause for a disease. Henderson quotes clinical geneticist Frances Flinter who said, "I don't think you can argue at this point that genome sequencing is in the best interests of children, or that it couldn't be done when they are older." Genetic Future's Daniel MacArthur says he doesn't see a problem with the Wests' decision. The medical benefits are probably negligible, he says, but so is the potential for harm. MacArthur, who has argued in favor of individual genetic sequencing in the past, adds, "There's also a good scientific rationale for sequencing multiple family members: it improves the accuracy and interpretability of each individual's sequence." If the Wests have weighed the pros and cons and have been provided informed consent, there's no reason why they shouldn't have access to their own genetic code, MacArthur writes.
Genomes Go All in the Family
Apr 20, 2010