Vanderbilt Law Review

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In recent years, genetic research has ascended the list of national research priorities. From among the many weighty claims on the fisc, Congress has chosen to provide significant federal support for the Human Genome Initiative, a project aimed at mapping the complete set of genetic instructions that form the structure of inherited attributes. Geneticists anticipate that the project will disclose important new in- formation on human development and disease. Some go further. One influential scientist remarked that this work is "the ultimate answer to the commandment 'Know thyself.' ""

The decision to fund this Initiative, the largest biology project in the history of science, at a time of significant budgetary constraints suggests its political currency. Scientists have recently developed genetic tests, familiar from the diagnostic technologies used to identify genetic abnormalities in fetuses and newborn infants, to find the markers indicating predisposition to certain single-gene disorders such as Huntington's disease. This success has bred the hope that more complex conditions, such as cancer, drug dependency, and mental illness, will ultimately be predictable and has enhanced the appeal of theories that explain human behavior in biological terms. Expectant parents now demand chromosomal testing of their babies before they are born and infertile couples often put considerable resources into the creation of genetically-related offspring. Institutions, including employers, insurers, and educators, look to biological tests to guide placement and avoid risk.'

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