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Academies of science call for amendments to impracticable Genetic Diagnostics Act
Date:11/10/2010

Many aspects of the German Genetic Diagnostics Act (Gendiagnostikgesetz) are out of touch with the latest technology, almost impossible to implement in clinical practice, or even detrimental to the success of recognised screening tests, such as newborn screening. The Act, which came into force in February 2010, is in desperate need of amendment. This was the conclusion reached by the Academy Workgroup "Predictive genetic diagnostics as an instrument of disease prevention" of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (for the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities), and the acatech - German Academy of Science and Engineering. The paper discusses all aspects of genetic testing of healthy individuals to prevent disease, including the medical, ethical, economic and legal dimensions of the issue.

"We are entering the age of genetic medicine," said the Workgroup's spokesperson, Professor Peter Propping, before going on to explain that an objective, factual discussion of the subject was important for the public and for government. Predictive genetic diagnostics involves analysing human genes to identify future disease risks. This type of test is becoming increasingly relevant because science is identifying more and more genetic variations that are linked to predispositions for specific diseases. These include a number of forms of hereditary cancers.

Scientists in the Workgroup agreed that predictive genetic testing should only be conducted at the request and in the interests of an individual. "Respect for the patients' freedom to make their own choices is essential," said Propping. The team categorically rejected eugenic ideas that aim to eliminate specific genes from the genome of an entire population or even go so far as to envision systematically "improving" the human gene pool.

The report also addressed the weaknesses and gaps in Germany's Genetic Diagnostics Ac
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Contact: Dr. Kathrin Happe
politikberatung@leopoldina.org
49-345-472-39862
Leopoldina
Source:Eurekalert

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