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It's Not Quite Reading "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

It's not the usual welcome-to-college package students receive: the incoming freshman class at the University of California, Berkeley, is being given opportunity to take a genetic test, reports the New York Times. The program, which is voluntary and confidential, will test the students' alcohol, lactose, and folate-metabolizing genes and let them know their barcoded results through a website. Jasper Rine, the professor who is leading the project, says that this will help the students learn about personalized medicine. However, the program also raises the hackles of some ethicists. "It's a bad precedent to set up mass testing without some sort of counseling support," says the University of Pennsylvania's Arthur Caplan. "I'd rather people get their results in a medical setting, where they can ask questions about the error rate or the chances of passing it on to their children, and not just see it posted on some website."

At Gene Sherpas, Steve Murphy says Berkeley could have picked a better gene than one for processing alcohol. "Ok, I get it, poor metabolizers will cut down on drinking so much," he writes. "What about that party-hardy freshman who has that timid roommate? Well, the roommate just found out that she can process alcohol 'just fine,'" he adds, before postulating there could be dire consequences.

In addition, we here at the Scan have looked back to our own college days and seem to remember that there were a few students under the age of 17, making us wonder whether they could consent to the test, or would need parental consent to take part in the freshman festivities.

The Scan

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