Currently, the ethics infrastructure - from medical and scientific training to the scrutiny of ethics committees - focuses on trying to reform informed consent to do a job which it is simply not capable of doing. Consent, or choice, is not an effective ethical tool in public ethics and is particularly problematic in the governance of genetics. Heather Widdows suggests using alternative and additional ethical tools and argues that if individuals are to flourish it is necessary to recognise and respect communal and public goods as well as individual goods. To do this she suggests a two-step process - the 'ethical toolbox'. First the harms and goods of the particular situation are assessed and then appropriate practices are put in place to protect goods and prevent harms. This debate speaks to core concerns of contemporary public ethics and suggests a means to identify and prioritise public and common goods.
This volume maps the areas of ethical concern in the debate regarding the governance of genetic information, and suggests alternative ethical frameworks and models of regulation in order to inform its restructuring. Genetic governance is at the heart of medical and scientific developments, and is connected to global exploitation, issues of commodification, commercialisation and ownership, the concepts of property and intellectual property and concerns about individual and communal identity. Thus the decisions that are made in the next few years about appropriate models of genetic governance will have knock-on effects for other areas of governance. In short the final answer to 'Who Decides?' in the context of genetic governance will fundamentally shape the ethical constructs of individuals and their networks and relationships in the public sphere.
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