Poll Shows Interest In Genetics

A new Harris telephone poll, conducted between April 6 and 9 for the nonprofit Center for Social and Legal Research in Hackensack, New Jersey, shows that the public is optimistic about the benefits but concerned about potential abuses of genetic testing and use of human DNA. Among 1000 adults nationwide, 56% said state DNA databases containing “genetic fingerprints” of all newborns would be “very” or “somewhat” acceptable, and 68% would be likely to ask doctors for genetic tests if they were available at a reasonable price. However, the overwhelming majority (86%) would be concerned if employers and insurers used genetic tests before deciding whether to hire or insure someone. Some 85% agreed that a national bioethics advisory commission should be established to advise and make recommendations on bioethical issues arising from human biology research.

Center president Alan Westin (Columbia University) said of the poll, “At a time of downsizing government and hostility to spending tax dollars, it is quite striking that more than 8 in 10 members of the public believe it would be valuable to have a government commission look into the uses of genetic testing and recommend protective policies.”