Diversity and uniformity in genetic responsibility: moral attitudes of patients, relatives and lay people in Germany and Israel [Book Review]

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 12 (4):433-442 (2009)
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Abstract

The professional and institutional responsibility for handling genetic knowledge is well discussed; less attention has been paid to how lay people and particularly people who are affected by genetic diseases perceive and frame such responsibilities. In this exploratory study we qualitatively examine the attitudes of lay people, patients and relatives of patients in Germany and Israel towards genetic testing. These attitudes are further examined in the national context of Germany and Israel, which represent opposite regulatory approaches and bioethical debates concerning genetic testing. Three major themes of responsibility emerged from the inter-group and cross-cultural comparison: self-responsibility, responsibility for kin, and responsibility of society towards its members. National contrast was apparent in the moral reasoning of lay respondents concerning, for example, the right not to know versus the duty to know (self-responsibility) and the moral conflict concerning informing kin versus the moral duty to inform (responsibility for kin). Attitudes of respondents affected by genetic diseases were, however, rather similar in both countries. We conclude by discussing how moral discourses of responsibility are embedded within cultural (national, religious) as well as phenomenological (being affected) narratives, and the role of public engagement in bioethical discourse

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