My reasons for writing to this side of the debate are personal and professional, but mostly personal. I believe that, without DNA research, there wouldn't be the capabilities seen today in the medical and criminal justice worlds. These are two areas out of many in which DNA research had positive outcomes. I am all for DNA research. Without it, we wouldn't have the medical and criminal justice breakthroughs we've had since DNA research began. My personal thoughts on this subject will be the focus of this article. Because I have personal experience in this area I feel that I can give a good argument for DNA research and the good that it's done.
When I was married we had three boys: Billie, Brandon, and Bryton. They were all very rambunctious and typical little boys. Always getting into everything or taking things apart. Anyway, they were all pretty healthy boys. Or so we thought. My middle son, Brandon, started kindergarten when he was 5 . He was able to learn and excel for the first couple months, but by November of that year, his teacher called us with concerns that he was losing his fine motor skills. He started having troubles with using pencils and scissors. These were skills he had at the beginning of the year. Then, by the end of January he was having trouble walking. This was a definite sign that his gross motor skills were diminishing, too. His doctors thought that it might be psychological. They couldn't see anything wrong medically.
His father and I were going through a divorce at the time, so we thought maybe he was having some type of mental problems because of the turmoil our lives were in at the time. We decided to have him go to counseling just to rule out mental health problems. Well, by April, his ability to walk was worse. I knew at this point that his problems had to be more of a medical nature than of the mental health nature. This is when we began to have doctors specializing in childhood diseases take a look at him. No one, not even the doctors could give us a reason why he was losing all the skills he had acquired as a toddler and young boy. By June, he wasn't able to walk at all and had to be carried or put in a wheelchair. Soon after, his ability to talk and eat was gone and he had to have an operation to place a tube in his stomach for nourishment. He had to wear diapers just like he did when he was a baby.
All he could do was look at us with his big beautiful blue eyes and rely on our ability to try and figure out what was wrong with him. He could still smile and laugh occasionally, but most of his time was spent moaning or crying. He was in pain and there wasn't much we could do. After going to several doctors, we were told that his disease was quickly ravaging his six year old body and that we needed to take him to a Children's Hospital in Seattle to have DNA testing. We all had to go, his father, me, and his two brothers. Each of our DNA had to be tested so the doctors could match up the DNA and hopefully figure out where the diseased part of his DNA was coming from and, more importantly, what type of disease it was. It took from the onset of his problems in kindergarten to over a year later before we actually found out that he had a very rare disease.
The doctors told us it was meta-chromatic leukodystrophy. A disease that would continue to ravage his little body until his body couldn't take it anymore. What happened, the doctors said, was that Brandon's father carried the same bad gene that I had. Brandon ended up with both bad genes. Therefore, he contracted the disease. It's referred to as autosomal recessive. His older brother was tested and it was shown that he had one bad gene and one good gene. This is called autosomal dominant because the better gene took over the bad gene. He would just have to make sure that when he got married his wife didn't carry the same bad gene otherwise they could have a child that suffered like Brandon if that child were to receive two bad genes. My younger son's DNA test revealed he received two good genes so he would not have to worry about having a child with the same disease his brother had.
We were devastated as parents and his brothers were devastated because they could not run and play with Brandon like they used to before this disease took away his ability to be a young boy. He lived with this disease in constant pain requiring heavy duty pain killers. His doctors told us that the oldest someone lived with this disease was 18 years. Brandon died when he was 10. Living with this horrible disease for 5 years. All I could think about was he was no longer in pain and that he was in a better place. One time after his death, several years later, I had a dream about him. In my dream he was walking and talking, still the same age as he was when he died. As he sat in my lap, he asked me if I knew why he came to me in my dreams. I said no. He told me that he came to me in my dreams so he could talk to and get hugs from his mother. It still tears me up to this day when I think about this very emotional conversation I had with him in my dream.
Anyway, back to my reasons for believing that DNA research has helped us more than hindered us. Had DNA research not been available, we would never have known what disease it was that was taking over his body. We would not have been able to find out if our other sons had the same disease or if they would have to worry about having children of their own someday. One other bit of information we found out was that if we had known he had the disease before the onset of his symptoms we could have treated him with bone marrow therapy and it would have reversed the disease. This kills me inside every time I think about it, but there was no way of knowing this information. As it was, he had to go through so many tests before we found out what he had. By that time, the disease had gone too far before we could do the bone marrow therapy.
DNA testing, did however, give my older son a chance to make sure he doesn't have children with a disease like Brandon's. He would need to have his wife or girlfriend tested before they decided to have children just to be cautious, but that gave him the choice of having children or not. DNA testing could also give other families who have this bad gene in their family a chance to have their children tested when they're babies, so if the child was given this bad gene by both parents, he/she could get the bone marrow therapy before the onset of the disease process. Not only has DNA research helped many families deal with devastating diseases it has given hope to many other families who've had to deal with DNA anomalies.
Not only has DNA affected the medical world in a positive way, it has also helped the criminal justice system. Before DNA testing was available in the criminal justice realm, many crimes went unsolved or people were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Now that DNA testing has evolved, there are many more crimes being solved. Also, the many unsolved cases have been reopened and solved due to the ability to match DNA from the crime scene to the perpetrator. DNA retrieved from the crime scene is being matched to the DNA of criminals and is giving the criminal justice system a way to prove or disprove a suspect actually did commit the crime. Plus, many people who were innocent of the crimes they were put in prison for are now being exonerated due to the DNA evidence from the crime scene. Fewer innocent people are being convicted and put to death due to the advancement of DNA testing. Criminal data banks that store the DNA makeup of criminals was developed to allow police departments to search for a match with the DNA collected from a crime scene. This cannot possibly be seen as a negative impact. Criminals might say it's a negative impact for them, but one cannot deny that DNA research has been a positive impact to the criminal justice system.
There are many more positives coming from DNA research, more so then negatives. In this day and age, for anyone to say DNA research has hindered more than helped us, he or she has to be fooling themselves. Much of what we know today in the medical field alone is attributed to DNA testing. And the assistance DNA testing has given the criminal justice system in finding, arresting, and convicting criminals is just too much information to ignore. While I've only touched on two areas that have been positively impacted by DNA research there are many others. This type of research alone has given our world so much more medical information. Much more information then we could have ever had without it. I think that many people who see DNA research as negative are afraid; afraid of change and afraid of scientific research because of its impact on our world as we know it. The impact it has had in science and medical laboratories has brought us to where we are today and it will take us far into the future. There is no negativity in that.