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J Law Med Ethics. 2007 Summer;35(2):282-94.

Genetic determinism and discrimination: a call to re-orient prevailing human rights discourse to better comport with the public implications of individual genetic testing.

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University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Genetic testing can not only provide information about diseases but also their prevalence in ethnic, gender, or other vulnerable populations. While offering the promise of significant therapeutic benefits and serving to highlight our commonality, genetic information also raises a number of sensitive human rights issues touching on identity and the perception thereof, as well as the possibility of discrimination and social stigma. It stands to reason that the results of individual screenings could haplessly be used to make general assumptions about entire ethnic or gender groups. In this manner, genetic information can directly influence identity by impacting and perhaps even reframing conceptions of group rights and dimensions of self-identification, thus importing constitutional scrutiny on questions of dignity and discrimination in particular. Is there a risk of collective stigmatization deriving from discrete testing of self-identified individuals? Would such stigmatization impinge on individual dignity by the exogenous imposition of ethnic or gender/sexual identity? If so, what norms can most adequately respond if and when individual and group interests diverge? These questions are examined from a comparative perspective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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