Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei posted an interesting poll on her blog, Eye on DNA: “Would you sell your DNA?” (right column) based on a company that is literally offering people $5000 for their DNA.
As of today, 67 votes were tabulated and it appears that people tend to be a bit possessive of their own DNA, as 34% voted “No way, my DNA is mine and mine alone.” The next group at 24% said that they would sell it for the right price, followed by the altruistic bunch at 18% who said they would freely give away their DNA. 12% additional percent who are willing to give away their DNA has a more practical approach: “DNA is easy to synthesize anyway”.
I’d like to meet the person who is willing to trade her DNA for breast implants. I’m assuming that the person is a “she”, but with cosmetic surgery on the rise for men, you never know if a man would happily opt for a surgically sculpted 6-pack in exchange for his double helices.
Giving my DNA away freely gives me pause. On a practical level, I see freely distributing your DNA as almost the same as publicly posting your social security number, driver’s license, phone number(s), and home address. You never know who ends up with this information. We’re so worried about identity theft these days, who knows what can be done with our biological identities if these fall into the wrong hands?
I voted to sell it for the “right” price, and no, I haven’t considered how much “right” would be. But it won’t be just for $5000, although the company does state, “If your sample is used to generate a replacement organ that we sell, you will also receive a portion of the proceeds.” I’d want to see clauses and contingencies that ensure residual royalties should my DNA miraculously contains an answer to some interesting scientific question (aside from my being a strange specimen to begin with, but that’s beyond this blog!) beyond the current scope of “use”. I don’t have a fierce personal attachment to my DNA and I’d gladly consider a win-win, mutually beneficial arrangement. Having a business transaction ensures that there will be a formal paper trail associated with the process, and safeguards preferably would be in place to prevent fraud and abuse.
So would you sell your DNA?