Since the discovery of the DNA molecule in 1952, scientists have been working to understand how it works and which segments influence which parts or functions of the body. The Human Genome Project, begun in October 1990, hopes to identify these segments. Once the "normal" genetic sequences are identified, scientists work to find mutations that result in genetic disorders. A number of these mutations have been found and tests are being developed to help identify individuals carrying these mutations. This new technology is bringing with it a host of new legal and ethical dilemmas. These issues include potential discrimination, rights to privacy, and issues involving the parent/child relationship. At present, most genetic testing will not improve the quality of life and may result in harm. .
For now, genetic testing can be used to help diagnose certain diseases, like Huntington's disease and Cystic fibrosis, but in most cases there is no cure available and little that can be done to treat these diseases. Genetic testing is also used in criminal investigations. When it helps to identify a rapist or murderer, that is a benefit to society, but when testing is forced on a large group of innocent people to try to identify the criminal among them, it violates the right to privacy of the many innocent people in the group. When genetic testing can lead to a cure, or be used to identify the guilty without invading the privacy of the innocent, then it can be used effectively. Until then, genetic testing should only be used with utmost caution. .
Genetic testing can lead to discrimination. Insurance companies hope to use the results of genetic tests to categorize people based on their risk of developing a disease. This would result in some people having to pay high premiums, or being denied coverage entirely, based on information that may never come to pass and supposed risk factors that they have no control over.