Persons and their copies.
Is cloning human beings morally wrong? The basis for the one serious objection to cloning is that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. I sketch a fragment of moral theory to make sense of the objection. I then outline several ways in which it might be claimed that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. In particular, I look at various ideas connected with autonomy. I conclude that there is no basis to the claim that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. I therefore reject the claim that cloning human beings is morally wrong. (+info
Genetic privacy: orthodoxy or oxymoron?
In this paper we question whether the concept of "genetic privacy" is a contradiction in terms. And, if so, whether the implications of such a conclusion, inevitably impact on how society comes to perceive privacy and responsibility generally. Current law and ethical discourse place a high value on self-determination and the rights of individuals. In the medical sphere, the recognition of patient "rights" has resulted in health professionals being given clear duties of candour and frankness. Dilemmas arise, however, when patients decline to know relevant information or, knowing it, refuse to share it with others who may also need to know. This paper considers the notions of interconnectedness and responsibility to others which are brought to the fore in the genetic sphere and which challenge the primacy afforded to personal autonomy. It also explores the extent to which an individual's perceived moral obligations can or should be enforced. (+info
Genetic testing: a conceptual exploration.
This paper attempts to explore a number of conceptual issues surrounding genetic testing. It looks at the meaning of the terms, genetic information and genetic testing in relation to the definition set out by the Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing in the UK, and by the Task Force on Genetic Testing in the USA. It argues that the special arrangements that may be required for the regulation of genetic tests should not be determined by reference to the nature or technology of the test, but by considering those morally relevant features that justify regulation. Failure to do so will lead to the regulation of genetic tests that need not be regulated, and would fail to cover other tests which should be regulated. The paper also argues that there is little in the nature of the properties of gene tests, using DNA or chromosomes, that in itself justifies a special approach. (+info
Genetics and the British insurance industry.
Genetics and genetic testing raise key issues for insurance and employment. Governmental and public concern galvanised the British insurance industry into developing a code of practice. The history of the development of the code, issues of genetic discrimination, access to medical information, consent and the dangers of withholding information and the impact on the equity of pooled risk are explored. Proactive steps by the Association of British Insurers suggest that moral reflection not legislation is the way forward. (+info
Should we genetically test everyone for haemochromatosis?
The increasing availability of DNA-based diagnostic tests has raised issues about whether these should be applied to the population at large in order to identify, treat or prevent a range of diseases. DNA tests raise concerns in the community for several reasons. There is the possibility of stigmatisation and discrimination between those who test positive and those who don't. High-risk individuals may be identified for whom no proven effective intervention is possible, or conversely may test "positive" for a disease that does not eventuate. Controversy concerning prenatal diagnosis and termination of affected pregnancies may arise. Haemochromatosis, however, is a disease that is not only treatable but also preventable if those at high risk are identified presymptomatically. This paper will identify and discuss key issues regarding DNA-based population screening for haemochromatosis, and argue that population-based genetic screening for haemochromatosis should be supported when a number of contentious issues are addressed. In the context of a health system with limited resources haemochromatosis is the paradigm of a disorder where there is an ethical and clinical imperative to encourage presymptomatic DNA testing for all in ethnically relevant communities. (+info
Genetic medicine: an experiment in community-expert interaction.
This project tested a two-way model of communication between lay groups and experts about genetic medicine in Perth, Western Australia. Focus group discussion with community group participants was followed by a communication workshop between community group participants and experts. Four groups of concerns or themes emerged from discussion: clinical considerations; legislative concerns; research priorities, and ethical and wider considerations. Community group concerns are not always met by the actions of "experts". This is, in part, because of the differing life-worlds of each group. However, the communication workshop showed the potential of two-way communication for both lay and expert members in understanding the others' viewpoint. Further, the approach developed here offers one possible way for community groups to participate in a substantial way in policy formulation processes. (+info
Who should know about our genetic makeup and why?
Recent developments in biology have made it possible to acquire more and more precise information concerning our genetic makeup. Although the most far-reaching effects of these developments will probably be felt only after the Human Genome Project has been completed in a few years' time, scientists can even today identify a number of genetic disorders which may cause illness and disease in their carriers. The improved knowledge regarding the human genome will, it is predicted, in the near future make diagnoses more accurate and treatments more effective, and thereby considerably reduce and prevent unnecessary suffering. On the other hand, however, the knowledge can also be, depending on the case, futile, distressing or plainly harmful. This is why we propose to answer in this paper the dual question: who should know about our genetic makeup and why? Through an analysis of prudential, moral and legal grounds for acquiring the information, we conclude that, at least on the levels of law and social policy, practically nobody is either duty-bound to receive or entitled to have that knowledge. (+info
The "new genetics": an ethical perspective from family practice.
The new genetic technologies are becoming increasingly applicable to clinical medicine. At present, however, diagnostic capabilities far exceed treatment options. Pregnancy termination, with its attendant moral-ethical problems, remains the major therapeutic option for mothers bearing fetuses with genetic abnormalities. In this article, the author outlines the major ethical issues facing family physicians, in the context of our expanding genetic diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities, and their possible effects on the traditional physician-patient relationship. (+info