September 4, 2011

Genetic Literacy in the States: How Are They Doing?

Performing critical analysis at the intersection of law and the sciences involves some knowledge, at the very least, of the underlying technical material, combined with a command of any relevant legal concepts and doctrines. For that reason, as 21st-century medicine is increasingly informed by genetic paradigms, and life science technologies draw on genetic blueprints, the ability of the body politic to respond to crises of regulation, ownership and access requires some genetic literacy. How defined?  The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) commissioned a study which reported that the states were largely "inadequate" in their instruction of high school students with genetic concepts.  Concept 1:  "DNA is the genetic material for all species of living organisms."  Concept 2:  Genes are segments of DNA that encode information critical for development. DNA is organized into structures called chromosomes." 19 standard concepts are included in these assessments, most of which tease out the finer processes of genetic sciences; only 7 states were rated as having an adequate set of standards in their genetic currcula.  Top scores?  Michigan and Delaware. Here is the paper.  ASHG is an organization of genetics professionals, and has devoted considerable energy to policy work in such areas as gene patenting and genetic discrimination.  In their press release, they note that  “Healthcare is moving rapidly toward personalized medicine, which is infused with genetics. Therefore, it is essential we provide America’s youth with the conceptual toolkit that is necessary to make informed healthcare decisions."

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