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Nat Genet. 2004 Nov;36(11 Suppl):S8-12.

Forensic genetics and ethical, legal and social implications beyond the clinic.

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Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, 701A Welch Road, Suite 1105, Palo Alto, California 94304, USA. <>


Data on human genetic variation help scientists to understand human origins, susceptibility to illness and genetic causes of disease. Destructive episodes in the history of genetic research make it crucial to consider the ethical and social implications of research in genomics, especially human genetic variation. The analysis of ethical, legal and social implications should be integrated into genetic research, with the participation of scientists who can anticipate and monitor the full range of possible applications of the research from the earliest stages. The design and implementation of research directs the ways in which its results can be used, and data and technology, rather than ethical considerations or social needs, drive the use of science in unintended ways. Here we examine forensic genetics and argue that all geneticists should anticipate the ethical and social issues associated with nonmedical applications of genetic variation research.

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