One of the growing applications of new genetic knowledge is seen in the development of policies that foster both genetic testing and screening. Both are linked with a perception of improved health and healthcare, personalised prediction of risk, more precision in diagnosis, and more precise targeting of drug therapy and prevention according to individual genetic profiles. The benefits seem, at first sight, obvious, and integral to the aims of the medical profession. Genetic profiling can, of course, also be used to track criminal activity or to determine paternity, though the main concern of this chapter will be the issues associated with health and medical ethics. More general issues arise, such as the ‘geneticisation’ of knowledge about humanity.
The UK Government White Paper on genetics, entitled Our Inheritance, Our Future: Realising the Potential of Genetics in the NHS, launched in June 2003, represents a remarkable endorsement of the application of genetics to healthcare services, with the promise of a £50 million investment over three years. In addition to more specialised services in genetics, UK Government policy is to integrate genetics-based approaches into mainstream healthcare, so genetics is set to be a key characteristic of healthcare policy for all patients, not just those with defined genetic disorders. Ethical concerns, where they arise, seem to be based on fears about misuse of an individual's genetic information for commercial or other gain, while exempting its use for police or medical purposes.