According to the New York Times, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in a recent blog post, shared the news that he has a gene mutation that increases his likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease. According to Brin, studies show that his likelihood of developing the disease “in his lifetime may be 20% to 80%.”
What would possess Brin to disclose this sensitive personal information? The simple answer may lie in a crass attempt at advertising for his wife’s company, 23andMe, a biotechnology start-up that maps DNA for customers. In his blog post, Brin reported that 23andMe identified his gene mutation, a discovery that will allow him to “adjust his life to reduce” his chance of developing Parkinson’s and “support research into this disease” long before it affects him. (At a party, Brin told a New York Times reporter that he thought disclosing one’s DNA code to the public would be helpful to attract input from doctors who could suggest treatments, in a sort of open-source model). But for anyone else–a mere mortal who does not have the luxury of his wealth–such a disclosure would be foolish. Employers would no doubt view a person differently, even though the increased chance of developing the disease based on the gene mutation is so uncertain. His disclosure also sends the wrong signal to the easily influenced–one hopes that we do not see people announcing their potential diseases on Facebook or MySpace.