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Soc Sci Med. 2007 Nov;65(10):2093-104. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Genes, ownership, and indigenous reality.

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Otago Bioethics Centre, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Recent genetic research has led to questions about the ownership of genetic material. These questions have been addressed within a discussion about information and ownership but not all cultures accept this framework. Indigenous groups may have concepts that are either ignored or translated into the language of ownership. We explore the problematic notion of ownership of the body and genetic material in some cultural settings and shift the "conceptual lens" through which the issue is viewed to one that is more appropriate to indigenous thoughts about genes and DNA. We then use the example of New Zealand to indicate some ways in which culturally informed conceptualisations can transform some of the ethical issues involved in genetic information and property disputes and underpin recommendations in this area of bioethics and health care research.

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