What is ethics?

As you will have seen from the poll, if you ask people ‘what is ethics?’ you are likely to get a number of different kinds of replies. Most will agree that ethics has to do with the question of how we should behave, what choices we should make about how we live our lives. However, where individuals believe they can find the answers to the question ‘how should we behave?’ may differ greatly and typically include reference to religions, to intuitive feelings, to professional codes of practice, to laws and policy and to cultural norms.

Genomic testing raises many ethical questions, for instance:

Should we warn other family members if a genetic test shows that they may also be affected by a serious/treatable genetic disorder?

Is it ever ethically acceptable to put pressure on an individual to undertake a genetic test?

Sometimes when sequencing a whole genome we might find changes in genes that are associated with other genetic conditions that the patient was not being tested for, and it is how we deal with these kinds of results that presents us with ethical challenges. Does this mean that we cannot use the usual sort of consent for genome sequencing?

Think about these questions. What would be your first reaction to them?

Why do you think that just relying on our initial gut feeling might not be the best approach here?

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This article is from the free online course:

Clinical Bioinformatics: Unlocking Genomics in Healthcare

The University of Manchester