From a Genetic Predisposition to an Interactive Predisposition: Rethinking the Ethical Implications of Screening for Gene-Environment Interactions

In a widely acclaimed study from 2002, researchers found a case of gene-environment interaction for a gene controlling neuroenzymatic activity (low vs. high), exposure to childhood maltreatment, and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Cases of gene-environment interaction are generally characterized as evincing a genetic predisposition; for example, individuals with low neuroenzymatic activity are generally characterized as having a genetic predisposition to ASPD. I first argue that the concept of a genetic predisposition fundamentally misconstrues these cases of gene-environment interaction. This misconstrual will be diagnosed, and then a new concept—interactive predisposition—will be introduced. I then show how this conceptual shift reconfigures old questions and raises new questions for genetic screening. Attempts to screen embryos or fetuses for the gene associated with low neuroenzymatic activity with an eye towards selecting against the low-activity variant fall prey to the myth of pre-environmental prediction; attempts to screen newborns for the gene associated with low neuroenzymatic activity with an eye towards early intervention will have to face the interventionist’s dilemma.
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/jhn039
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References found in this work BETA
The Analysis of Variance and the Analysis of Causes.R. C. Lewontin - 1974 - American Journal of Human Genetics 26:400-11.
Newborn Screening: New Developments, New Dilemmas.N. J. Kerruish - 2005 - Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (7):393-398.

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Citations of this work BETA
Difference Mechanisms: Explaining Variation with Mechanisms.James Tabery - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):645-664.
Interactive Predispositions.James Tabery - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):876-888.
On the Very Idea of Genetic Justice.Michele Loi - 2012 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (01):64-77.

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