GATTACA Reflection

Directed by Andrew Niccol, the film GATTACA was created to not only entertain the public but to spread awareness of ethical issues that people may not be aware of. The film introduces a scientifically advanced world that runs entirely on genetic information. Geneticists can sequence entire embryo genomes, predicting virtually every aspect of a person’s mental and physical behaviors before birth. The movie acts as a “utopia” for today’s science world: eradicating health problems almost entirely. Although the disease has decreased in the population, the movie highlights the downfalls to a genetically driven society. The movie introduces uniformity, the inability to identify people as individuals. This can be seen from matching apparel worn by workers and machine-like mannerisms. Next, with reproduction heavily monitored, only the “fittest” embryos are selected for implantation and parents are deemed irresponsible to have “natural” births. Next, GATTACA shows extreme forms of prejudice and discrimination. Parents, doctors, and employers judge individuals off statistical probability, determining “invalids” as people incapable of achieving extraordinary things. Instead of racism, “genoism” critics people on their genetic material instead of the type of people they are individually. The central message of the film is that human spirit is the most admirable part of humanity, not physical or intellectual attributes.
After learning and experiencing Jerome’s heart condition, his parents decide to have their second child through IVF and genetically engineered. During an appointment, the geneticist states, “I have taken the liberty of eradicating any potentially prejudicial conditions – premature baldness, myopia, alcoholism and addictive susceptibility, propensity for violence and obesity.” The father then asks, “We were wondering if we should leave some things to chance.” To this, the geneticist responds, “You want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me; we have enough imperfection built-in already. Your child doesn’t need any additional burdens.”
If given a chance to eradicate a lot of potential harm that would have been caused to the child in the future, it is irresponsible of the father to leave anything up to chance. “God children” seem to be disadvantaged and discriminated against in society. Any possible “error” leads to a lack of opportunity. If the father chooses not to eliminate any potential conditions, he will be the cause of the child’s challenging lifestyle. Like Vincent, a natural child may feel underappreciated and undesirable in society.
Vincent states in the movie that “it’s illegal to discriminate – ‘genoism’ it’s called – but no one takes the laws seriously.” This is, in fact, one of the standard criticisms of genetic profiling: if we have genetic data on people, then employers or insurance companies will use that data to minimize financial risk. Assuming that this will be true, would the benefits of genetic profiling still outweigh the costs?
The benefits of genetic profiling include removing common diseases from society. This technology would give people a more comfortable, healthy lifestyle. It may cause individuals to be happier, giving them a better chance of personal fulfillment void of serious medical predicaments. But as society changed, other conditions would occur that need treated. These potential conditions may be related to stress and pollution. People would look for ways to protect against those problems. And there would still be accidents and the need for pain medication and other treatments. In GATTACA, Jerome was the best of the best; he had “perfect” genes with virtually no “mess-ups.” Jerome could achieve anything until… his accident, paralyzing him from the waist down. Since he identified as this “flawless” person, he could no longer accept himself. Genetic profiling may lead to a decrease in personal acceptance if an accident happens or a disease is acquired. Although disease may decrease in a genetic profiling society, there would still be chemical, stress-induced, physical misfortunes, and congenital disabilities. But the lack of illness isn’t possible. Our bodies are full of foreign bacteria, and we can’t exist without them. These bacteria are constantly evolving so diseases will always evolve too. Lastly, researchers have noticed that environment seems to play a vital role in disease, more so than an individual’s genetic makeup.
The costs of genetic profiling include discrimination and segregation. In GATTACA, the society is full of discrimination. Individuals are discriminated against based on their genetic Genetically engineered individuals make up the high class, while those born naturally are inferior. “Invalids” can’t choose their occupation despite their academic abilities or work ethic. Vincent states, “the best test score wasn’t going to matter unless I had the blood test to go with it.” This illustrates that the society has begun to value individuals solely on their genetic makeup, instead of personal worth.
I do not believe the benefits of genetic profiling will outweigh the costs. The society within GATTACA is obsessed with removing human “flaws” and aims for perfection. The society has become based on eugenics, altering individual’s genes to promote strength, attractiveness, and intelligence. However, despite this attempt to remove deficiencies, even the “valids” have flawed characteristics. This can be seen when the leader of GATTACA corporation commits murder. This can also be detected through Jerome’s alcoholism and resentment regarding his fate. The society is flawed because it is based on judgment and oppression. Humans contain flaws that are impossible to change regardless of genetic engineering technology.
I think genetic profiling would be great if genetic research advances the fields of human medicine and helps people live better lives. This would ONLY be amazing if genetic research were not abused, similar to the context of the movie. This would be tricky though because serious consideration and regulation would need to be laid out. With IVF and PDG unregulated, continued advancement may continue to undiscussed. The government might leave jurisdiction up to the states. If society and the government abused genetic profiling, critical issues would arise. Eugenics may make a comeback, refusing certain people the right to breed and pass on their genes. As science advances, political leaders, law enforcement, and all societal members need to heavily consider their choices when it comes to genetic profiling.