The secrets locked in our genes are being revealed, and we find ourselves both enthused and frightened about what that portends. We look forward to curing disease and alleviating suffering—for our children as well as for ourselves—but we also worry about delving too deeply into the double helix. Abuses perpetrated by eugenicists—from involuntary sterilization to murder—continue to taint our feelings about genetic screening.
Yet modern genetic screening has been practiced since 1960, benefiting millions of women and children all over the world. In Heredity and Hope: The Case for Genetics Screening, Ruth Schwartz Cowan persuasively argues that new forms of screening—prenatal, newborn, and carrier testing—are both morally right and politically acceptable. Medical genetics, built on the desire of parents and physicians to reduce suffering and increase personal freedom, not on the desire to “improve the human race,” is in fact an entirely different enterprise from eugenics.
Neither minimizing the difficulty of the choices that modern genetics has created for us nor fearing them, Heredity and Hope bravely and compassionately argues that we can improve the quality of our own lives and the lives of our children by using the modern science and technology of genetic screening responsibly.