In Steven King’s short story, “The Running Man”, one of the ways the poor were tormented for the enjoyment of the rich was a medical test, followed by the opportunity to compete in a stressful game. A lot of the stress came from the knowledge that only those with heart problems were invited to play this game. Being invited to play the game was sometimes the news intimation a person had that their health was compromised.
Ah, Wikipedia has the subject covered: The story’s protagonist, Ben Richards, is a citizen of Co-Op City in the year 2025. The world’s economy is in a shambles and America has become a totalitariandystopia. Richards is unable to find work, having been blackballed, and needs money to get medicine for his gravely ill daughter Cathy. As a last resort, Richards turns to the Games Federation, a government-mandated television station that runs violent game shows (in one game, Treadmill to Bucks, a contestant with a heart or respiratory condition runs on a treadmill earning prize money for the duration of their run, often dying in the process).
I bring this up as a metaphor for the flip side of a very cheery article about genome sequencing that Samsung is about to start*.
You may regard the possibility of foreseeing all the hereditary diseases you could develop in your lifetime and receiving tailor-made prevention or treatment for them as science fiction.
But this is happening in Korea, with conglomerates such as Samsung joining the race. Just seven years after the sequencing of the 3 billion DNA base pairs of the human genome was achieved, the sector business is rapidly emerging as a goldmine for the medical industry.
It would indeed be great if hereditary diseases could be discovered early and treated. However, we are only half-way there. Or, approaching half-way: with DNA sequencing, individuals at risk will be identified early but the treatments still lag. That might be fine if you already have a good health insurance plan, but if you don’t, good luck getting insurance that covers pre-existing conditions’.
I can imagine a Samsung employee,( Samsung has an insurance branch, I think) meeting a candidate for insurance. “Sure, no problem”, the candidate is told. “Let me swab your mouth a moment.” A few weeks later, the candidate is told, yes, we can give you insurance but it will cost 20% of your salary. In that way, the poor guy learns he will suffer from diabetes within the decade.