Don’t buy those pointless gene tests

The weekend’s coverage of the ‘genes for longevity’ is yet another in a long line of genetic studies that tell us nothing that we didn’t already know. However it sows another seed of unrealistic expectation in the mind of the public who are increasingly being led to believe that ‘it’s all in the genes’ and that there are imminent genetic solutions to all man’s problems. And quite what NHS Choices is doing covering stories like these is puzzling. We have no choice over our genetic make-up, there is no relevant gene therapy or even valid tests – where is the choice?!

Meanwhile the Human Genetic Commission have backed away from protecting the public from the 21st century quackery of over-the-counter genetic tests, instead producing a set of ‘principles’ to which we’re not sure if anyone who will pay any attention, or held accountable. Why is it that we are allowing ‘medical’ tests to be sold in a consultation and counselling vacuum? Why is it that tests with questionable analytical validity, little or no clinical validity or any clinical utility are being allowed take shelf space in the local chemist? Do we allow DIY ultrasound or blood tests? No – so why are we being so weak-willed on over-the-counter gene tests?

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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