The ethically controversial option of genetic population screening used to be restricted to a small number of rather rare diseases by methodological limitations which are now about to be overcome. With the new technology of DNA microarrays ("DNA chip"), emerging from the synthesis of microelectronics and molecular biology, methods are now at hand for the development of mass screening programmes for a wide spectrum of genetic traits. Thus, the DNA chip may be the key technology for a refined preventive medicine as well as a new dimension of eugenics. The forthcoming introduction of the DNA chip technology into medical practice urgently requires an internationally consistent framework of ethical standards and legal limitations if we do not want it to become a new Pandora's box.
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