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In the last fifteen years, there has been a revolution in our ability to test for a large and increasing range of diseases and indicators of human health. Simple tests which can be used in the laboratory, office or home have sprung from basic research in molecular biology and immunology, two areas in which the UK has been particularly active. This technology has already had a major impact on the organisation of health services in some countries, though not yet in the UK. Screening for diseases or for susceptibility to disease is becoming possible. Some potential applications, however, raise ethical issues. These include the possible use of screening for workplace and insurance purposes, and issues associated with diagnosis of genetic disorders.

This POSTnote describes the technologies concerned and their status in the UK, and highlights some of the issues which may be of interest to Parliamentarians.

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