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Genetics and the European Union

5 Pages 1310 Words

Economic implications of human genetics (diagnosis and therapy)
In the 1970s and 1980s countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands regarded fledgling medical genetics as an independent specialist field acting as an interface between the new laboratory-based genetic technologies and their applications. The new specialist sector has adopted a family-oriented approach enabling parents to enjoy the benefits of a conscious decision to have children and prevention tests for diseases developing late in life such as chronic Huntington?s chorea. Clinics in the sector have specialised in the diagnosis of rare syndromes, bearing in mind that diagnosis is an essential prelude to careful counselling. In countries where the health care system calls directly on specialists to cope with genetic diseases, the machinery for dealing with such diseases has developed in a more piecemeal way, and laboratory services have sprung up alongside various university departments and general pathology and biochemistry units.

As investment in genetic diagnosis and counselling centres increases, Europe is likely to be faced with a dichotomy. In countries which have integrated genetics centres, investment in the sector will probably continue, whereas in countries with fewer facilities, genetics will develop in other fields. However, whatever form such developments might take, they will need to be pursued strenuously so as to enable the benefits of the Human Genome Project to translate into real improvements in health care. Approximately 6 500 phenotypes have been recognised, and genes are estimated to account for about a quarter of that number. All in all, single-gene disorders, chromosomal defects, and deformities due to genetic causes in the true sense will affect 1 person in 20 within 25 years. Genetic tests should mark an important step forward in the care of such people and their families.

In Europe, according to a reliable prediction, the genet...

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