3rd Place


Alexis Schneider

Upper Dublin High School
Teacher: Mrs. Megan Gallagher


Her arm twitched involuntarily. The chipped mug slowly leaned toward one side, but the woman only stared. As the boiling hot, murky liquid splashed onto her lap, an icy cold feeling of dread clenched her heart. She wanted to call her father for comfort, but couldn’t. He was gone. Huntington’s Disease (HD) led first to the excruciating, slow debilitation of his motor and cognitive functions and, later, his death...

...When she turned 18, she (unlike her father) had tested negative for HD. Like a deer set free from impending disaster, she’d move as quickly as her naturally clumsy nature allowed.

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Progeny of a victim of HD can never rest. With a 50% chance of developing the disease themselves, every prospective symptom can cause terror...

...Following examinations to ensure emotional readiness, people at risk of developing HD can undergo testing to learn with 96% certainty whether they have HD (Gusella, 1993)...

...Approximately 15% of people at risk of carrying the defective HD gene choose testing (Anderson, 2013). Knowing whether or not you have HD is life altering and empowering. Being able to attribute potential symptoms to normal human flaws can lift a heavy curtain of emotionally draining fear and uncertainty...

...Knowing that you have HD has personal, financial, and social benefits. Reproduction rates decrease following positive HD tests (Eivers-Kiebooms, 2002). Individuals aware of their genetic status can make more informed family-planning decisions...

...However, adolescents should be encouraged to defer HD testing until adulthood (Botkin, 2016). For children and adolescents, questions of marriage, family planning and careers are not immediately relevant. With no existing medical benefits of testing, the weight of potentially bad news could be devastating for a child/adolescent and his/her family (Smith, 2013)...

...“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” (Kofi Annan) Genetic testing for HD provides powerful and life altering information. However this power is too complex, too great, and too premature for adolescents.