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 entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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