If you could look into a crystal ball to find out how your life ends, would you? Yesterday, James Watson (yes, that James Watson) decided that he didn’t want to know. His personal genome was sequenced by 454 Life Sciences and the Human Genome Sequencing Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Watson will make his entire genome publicly available with the exception of one gene: apolipoprotein E, the gene most strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, which killed his grandmother.
There is no correct answer to the genetic testing dilemma. The children and grandchildren of victims of diseases with much clearer genetic causes have struggled with this question for years. But if Watson’s genome announces the dawn of pharmacogenomics, many more of us will have to decide for ourselves what we do and what we don’t want to know.
Watson is not a man who shies away from controversy. Perhaps that is why I am slightly surprised by such a human decision from such a brazen pioneer.