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Last week there was an excellent piece by Daniel MacArthur in Wired on how the
doctors' lobby is trying to asert its monopoly on genetic testing
(hat tip John Hawks).
The American Medical Association has written to the FDA
demanding a gate-keeping role in direct-to-consumer genetic
We urge the Panel to offer clear findings and
recommendations that genetic testing, except under the most limited
circumstances, should be carried out under the personal supervision
of a qualified health care professional.
As MacArthur translates:
In other words, the AMA is seeking to
maintain its members' traditional monopoly over the interpretation
of genetic information - and they expect regulators to act as their
enforcers, beating down the upstart DTC genomics companies who have
wandered onto their sacred turf.
This is, of course, an absurd, desperate
demand. If doctors think that people should consult them about
their genomes, they shouldn't run crying to the regulators to
provide the necessary force; instead, they need to
convince the public that a medical consultation adds genuine value
to their genomic information. Unfortunately for the AMA,
right now it's far from clear that this is true: in many cases, DTC
genomics customers are far better equipped to interpret their
results than their doctors are.
And remarkably, the doctors even admit that they do not know
enough to do the job they are demanding they be given:
The number of genetic tests available
directly to consumers has proliferated rapidly, and several studies
have reported that physicians find it difficult to keep up with the
pace of genetic technology.
This is yet another example of a patronising priesthood who
think the world is a top-down place. I am all in favour of getting
physicians' advice on how to interpret genetic test -- and the web,
not the local surgery, is the place to find it, especially
from DNA Direct -- but the itch to make something
compulsory is wholly wrong.
My reaction to reading this article was to do something I have
been putting off for months. I went straight to the 23andme website
and ordered a DNA test kit. Before they make me have to go through
As Razib Khan puts it at Discover:
Once the information is out, it's out.
There's no way that the government can put the genie back in the
bottle for those of us who have raced ahead of feared regulation.
So run, just in case. Once you cross the threshold they can't drag
you back, no matter how powerful their lobbyists and marketers