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Updated 3:32pm - Aug 19, 2014

Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns arrow Coastal Voices: Federal government is looking to own you

Coastal Voices: Federal government is looking to own you

What if there was a simple non-invasive test that would show whether you had a propensity to get certain cancers or heart disease or kidney failure or were prone to get diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease sometime in the future and it only cost $99.

Would you order it?  This seems to be in the realm of science fiction, but actually is available today with current technology.

According to Wikipedia, 23andme Inc. has been marketing a simple test that uses a swab of the inside of the cheek and then runs the results through genetic testing to find out what your own genes reveal about you.  Using the results, a woman can find out her probability of getting breast cancer or a male can find out the chances of getting testicular cancer many years before the disease manifests itself.

In this way individuals, in consultation with a physician, can be proactive about their own health, modifying behaviors that can mitigate the chances of actually developing diseases. The term 23andme refers to the human DNA that consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes plus you, hence the name 23andme.

The company’s saliva-based, mail order test identifies over 240 genetic traits that offer clues to a person’s overall health. This test has been taken by hundreds of thousands of people. In addition to giving indications as to the probability of developing specific health issues in the future, it also gives the likelihood of negative drug reactions. Now a person can know in advance what the possibilities are that certain drugs will react negatively in the body.

Does this sound too good to be true?  Well it is. Recently federal regulators ordered 23andme to stop marketing its test. This was not because of any problems with the test but because ... wait for it.  Here is the quote:

“No consumer should be left on his or her own to interpret such ‘complicated and highly nuanced’ data.”

To put it in every-day language: we the public are too stupid to be allowed to have access to our own genetic data. The FDA further says that it is concerned about an unintended use that could include false positives that the person could utilize to undergo unnecessary surgery.

So, the FDA assumes that we are so stupid as to rush out and demand surgery based on this one test. Because the FDA could find no legal authority to order the company to cease and desist operations, it said it is treating the test as a “medical device.” That’s quite a stretch even for the FDA.

Just think of the implications of this heavy-handed action by the federal government. We are no longer responsible for being proactive about our own health.

Because this test is not covered by Obamacare or other insurance, it was assumed that people would not order it, but because the test is so inexpensive, people are ordering it on their own and the government just can’t stomach the fact that some people want to be informed about their own bodies.

It really begs the question, “Do I own my own body or is it the property of the federal government?”

Because being an organ donor is such a good and noble thing, will the government mandate that I donate my organs?  Because I have two perfectly good kidneys, will the government mandate that I only need one and the other one be donated to a needy person?

And lastly, because I will cost the government a lot of money the older I get, will the government set a maximum age where I can receive medical treatment, say age 75?   Does that scare the hell out of you?

Many people were finding out that expensive surgeries could be avoided in the future by modifying behaviors today, thus saving Americans millions if not billions of dollars in health costs down the road. But saving taxpayer dollars is not and never has been the objective of the administration. Its primary objective is to make sure that government is involved in your every health-care decision and at the highest cost possible.

It believes the more you rely on government the more beholden you are to it. Naturally a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.

Putting this company out of business is just the beginning.

Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident.

 


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