Ethical Use of DNA and Genetic Testing

Sarah's and Maddie's 9th grade biology class completed their project "23andMe, You, Us: Ethical DNA Information Use in Society" before Winter Break. The essential question asked of students was, "Are there ways for society to use an individual's genetic information ethically?" 

In October, students began the inquiry project with thought-provoking videos and a presentation showing different perspectives of how society uses DNA, genetic testing, and information. Students brainstormed with stakeholders, asked questions, read challenging articles, and crafted feedback to prepare for the final presentations. Ashleigh ‘25 said, “I learned how much information companies exclude from their initial website or campaign, and how important it is to do your own research before giving someone personal information.” 

The final presentations took on the form of a mock congressional hearing to determine the ethical uses for DNA and genetic testing in society. Several guest panelists served on the hearing committee, including Dr. Michelle Burk, Page Stites, and Field parent Nancy Kwon, who works as a researcher with the Veterans Pain Center. Along the way, students learned about the structure and function of DNA, how DNA codes protein, different genetic conditions, the functionality of the tests, and accuracy and privacy concerns, among many other things. They built research and argumentation skills as they had to use evidence to defend their position to professionals who asked tough questions in the final presentation. Leander commented on the experience, “While researching the 23andMe essay and working on the group genetic presentation with my classmates, Bea and Tatum, I learned how insecure your genetic information is if you have taken a genetic test. The government and law enforcement can access your personal genetic information at any time, and insurance companies can legally use your genetic information to curtail your insurance and health benefits.”