Race and DNA

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This week Howard University announced it wants to start collecting the DNA of African Americans. The school claims that such a data base is the best way to improve the health care for black Americans.

For a long time, scientific researchers and the general public have assumed that African Americans must have a genetic predisposition to diseases such as diabetes, asthma and sickle-cell anemia because they suffer from them at a much higher rate than white Americans.

But as more is learned about the human genome, that assumption is being challenged. And that’s where Howard’s plan is causing controversy. Some argue that by collecting the DNA of only African Americans, Howard is wrongfully suggesting there is a racial basis for disease.


Dr. Floyd Malveaux, Dean, Howard University College of Medicine

Dr. Pilar Ossorio, Assistant Professor of Law and Medical Ethics at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison.