Using genetic information: the individual and the community
Kegley, Jacquelyn Ann K.
Medicine and Law 1996; 15(3): 377-389
Genetic information is both individual and communal (species and family). Responsible use of this information requires exploration of a proper relationship between individual and communal values, rights, needs and decision-making. The individual/community issue is also important for dealing with the differences of emphasis between Western and non-Western cultures in this regard. Non-Western cultures emphasize community but also value the individual, while Western cultures know extreme individualism is counter-productive. This paper will discuss the individual-community relationship as it impacts on various problem areas in the utilization of genetic information, e.g. test results which impact family as well as individuals and which impact institutional projected costs while also making problematic individual access to employment, insurance and health care. The paper will also address the pernicious import of the paradigm of genetic essentialism which exaggerates individual responsibility while neglecting institutional and communal responsibility in genetic matters.
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