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You have a 50-percent chance of carrying a gene that will radically change and then destroy your life. Do you want to know if you have it?
This decision is at the heart of Plaques and Tangles, Nicola Wilson’s first play, on now at the Royal Court in London. The protagonist is Megan, brilliantly played by Monica Dolan, who we see at various stages of her life.
Her mother has died of early-onset Alzheimer’s, a rare type of the disease, and Megan faces a dilemma that is becoming more and more common. Does she take a test that might lay bare her destiny?
The reality is that genetic testing for conditions like Alzheimer’s is becoming common. If you are at risk, like Megan, because a parent has a disease with a known genetic component, then in the UK, the National Health Service will offer you a test and often counseling, too.
But there are now a large number of companies offering tests, like 23&Me, which recently relaunched its consumer service. 23&Me offers tests for 36 diseases, but it doesn’t offer counseling. After the result, you’re on your own.
So as a subject for a play, it is timely. Other writers feel it too. Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, which was made into a film last year starring Julianne Moore as a woman with Alzheimer’s, has a new novel out. Inside the O’Briens is about a man with Huntington’s disease and the struggle his children face about deciding whether or not to get tested.
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