Personal Responsibility and Genomic Science (Nigel Williams and Michael Arribas-Ayllon) 19th January 2010
“Know thyself” is an ethical imperative that was one of the touchstones of Greek philosophy, denoting one of the chief responsibilities of human beings. But how is this link between self-knowledge and morality affected when part of our “self-knowledge” becomes data about our genetic makeup and the health risk factors to which it may alert us?
If we can have access to information about whether we carry, in our DNA, genetic markers for specific diseases or conditions, does this make us responsible for obtaining this knowledge, and are we then responsible for taking action to manage any risk? How far, realistically, are we able to act upon this knowledge? How reliable a predictor of future health problems is the information that recent scientific discoveries in genetics can provide? How far is susceptibility to a given condition still highly conditional on complex factors in our environment?
These and other issues will be introduced by our two speakers. Dr Nigel Williams will introduce the work of his group on the role of genetic markers in indicating susceptibility to common neuropsychiatric conditions. Dr Michael Arribas-Ayllon will look at how the link between knowledge and responsibility is being used to market diagnostic tests and discuss and how our understanding of “genetic susceptibility” takes into account complexity and uncertainty.
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