Unnatural Selection: The Promise and the Power of Human Gene Research

Lois Wingerson, Author, Wingerson, Author
Lois Wingerson, Author, Wingerson, Author Bantam Books $24.95 (399p) ISBN 978-0-553-09709-2
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Approaching her subject with a journalist's objective eye, Wingerson (Mapping Our Genes) takes a comprehensive look at the issues swirling around the rapidly developing field of human genetics. She is at her best early on, discussing the personal decisions faced by couples who discover that their fetuses are likely to be born with Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis or any of a growing number of diseases for which prenatal genetic testing has become available. Equally moving is her account of the dilemmas faced by genetic counselors in their attempts to be caring and informative while remaining nondirective. Less successful is the book's middle section, which provides a brief history of the early eugenics movement and a discussion of the genetic effects of nuclear radiation. Wrapping up, Wingerson returns to the issues raised in her early chapters, though now focusing on social and ethical rather than personal considerations. Possible abuses of genetic information acquired by employers and insurers are covered in detail, as are the ramifications, potentially positive and negative, of the Human Genome Project. Wingerson, perhaps taking her lead from genetic counselors, raises provocative philosophical, moral and political questions but provides few answers, or even personal opinions. Throughout, numerous short, boxed features furnish background material that enables even readers with minimal scientific knowledge to gain a solid grasp of the complex issues broached. Agents, Cindy Klein and Georges Borchardt. (Oct.)
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