There’s a bad heart gene in both the Klainer and York families. With new advances in technology and the ability for non-invasive mapping of the cardiovascular system, it’s possible at much earlier ages to detect worrisome signs of heart disease. My brother-in-law, a physician, suggested that both Sara and Matt be tested. I strongly supported Paul’s recommendation, because in this case, there are things that can be done to mitigate future risk.
But what if the medical issue is something for which there is currently no treatment? Would you want to know? That’s long been true of Huntington’s disease, which killed Woody Guthrie. You can test for the gene, but you can’t head off the disease if the gene is present. It’s true of Alzheimer’s and various other forms of dementia, of ALS, and other devastating diseases. Would you want to know?
In some cases, knowing means the decision not to have children, to avoid passing a faulty gene on to the next generation. I can see where knowing might alter other life choices, especially in cases where the presence of a bad gene indicates you will develop a lethal disease, not just that you carry a propensity which may or may not ever be realized.
I’m going to be 72 in May, so for me the import of a decision like this is largely past. I’ve already outlived things that might have killed me relatively young, and I’m now at risk for all kinds of things simply because my body is aging and things at the cellular level go awry.
But if you’re younger, and if having a clearer idea of your genetic make-up would matter, what’s your sense of this? Would you want to know? Why or why not?