Kids, Sports, and DNA: Ethical Questions

It’s about parents having their kids genetically tested for athletic aptitude. (A version of this story came out a couple of months ago, before I started this blog, but it’s still of interest.)
From ABC30, Fresno: Playing with Genetics: D.N.A. & Sports

Most expectant parents can’t wait to see what their child looks like, and what that child will become. But now, parents can choose to take the surprise out of finding out by determining eye color, hair color, gender and even physical talents.

Just like the game of baseball it’s hit or miss when it comes to a kid’s ability to play. But what if parents could find out if their child has the genetic make-up to excel in sports?

Some parents apparently think the idea is pretty nifty. But there are skeptics:

“My first reaction is that parents obviously might want to know this information but my second reaction is kind of horror,” said clinical geneticist Cynthia Curry, M.D. She believes D.N.A. tests that claim to predict athletic ability may be just money-making fads. “I think they prey on parents desire to know what’s in their kid’s future and it’s very unlikely that that’s the sole predictor of their child’s athletic ability. It’s likely to be just one of many factors.”

My advice to parents contemplating this:
1) Think twice. Is this merely a cute idea, or is it actually in the best interests of your child? Think hard.
2) Ask the genetic testing company about the predictive power of their test.
3) Ask the company about privacy protections, and about what they do with samples after they’re tested. If you can’t get a good answer in plain English, run.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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