Kennedy Tragedies Linked To 'Risk-Taking Gene' - Israeli expert

JERUSALEM (AFP) - The Kennedy clan is not cursed by fate but by a "risk-taking gene" discovered in Israel that makes people reckless with speed, drugs and love, an Israeli researcher said Monday.
Richard Ebstein, a molecular geneticist who discovered the gene, said the inherited trait likely played a role in pushing Kennedy family members into "impulsive, adventurous and chance-taking" activities.
"There are very clear indications in the Kennedy family history that its members carry this gene," Ebstein told AFP when asked to comment on the presumed death of John Kennedy Jr in a plane crash on Friday.
"If I were a Kennedy, I'd consult the best psychologists in the US to discuss what normal personalities are and how to control their risk-taking urge," he said.
"When you are aware of the dangers, you're more likely to be careful," he said.
Ebstein, currently working at Jerusalem's Herzog Hospital, said his research showed that bearers of a gene complex known as the dopamine D-4 receptor and seotonin transporter promoter seek out strong sensations and are more likely than other persons to become addicted to drugs.
"We have carried out numerous statistical surveys and found that more than 50 percent of impulsive behavior can be explained by genetic factors," he said.
"These can lead people to be fighter jet pilots, give in to drug or alcohol abuse or take risks with their lives," he said.
Newborns as young as two weeks who have the gene are more alert and curious about the outside world, he said.
Ebstein noted that John Kennedy Jr. was only the latest in a long line of family members to die prematurely in a tragic saga dating back at least to World War II.
These included the plane crash of his uncle Joe, a wartime fighter pilot, the death in a 1948 plane crash of an aunt, Kathleen, and the assassinations of his father, President John Kennedy, and uncle Robert, both highly ambitious and flamboyant politicians.
One of Robert Kennedy's sons, David, died of a drug overdose in 1984, and another son, Michael, was killed in a 1997 skiiing accident.
John's uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, was also involved in a suspicious car crash in which a female companion died, and cousins have been involved in car crashes and brushes with the law over drug abuse.
There was growing speculation that John Kennedy Jr's plane crash on Friday was the result of imprudence.
He had little experience as a pilot, bought the more powerful plane he was flying only a few months ago and chose not to file a flight plan for the trip from New Jersey to Martha's Vineyard even though it involved a leg over the sea.
Kennedy also chose to fly despite poor visibility which discouraged more experienced pilots from making the same flight and was still recovering from a leg injury that could have limited his ability to control the plane.