Inderscience Publishers

If cloning is the answer, what was the question? Power and decision-making in the geneticization of health

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Courtesy of Inderscience Publishers

Since the announcement of the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep in February 1997, assiduous attempts have been made to emphasise the potential benefits of human cloning techniques that do not result in a cloned baby: replacement body organs; cancer and ageing research; testing new pharmaceuticals, to name a few. Such research would nonetheless pave the way for the replication of humans and for human genetic engineering. Promotion of such benefits has been at the expense of investigations into the social, economic and environmental aspects of health and disease - what causes the ill-health and disease that these potential applications of cloning technology might treat? Key issues relating to how these potential benefits would be obtained and distributed are little discussed. This paper explores questions of purposes, distribution of risks and benefits, and public and private responsibility raised by the new genetic technologies. It points to the relations between the profit agenda of medical/biotech companies, the rhetoric in political and public discourse, and the ideological trend of focusing on the individual. Such relations can be considered adequately only when broader social and economic issues (such as those of equity within the modern welfare state and between the North and the South) are included in the discourse. When "ethical" considerations of the immediate moral character and consequences of cloning are framed within the traditional discourse of moral philosophy rather than these broader issues, they legitimise the politics of market power.

Keywords: biotechnology, cloning, ethics, governance, market power, public participation, risk assessment

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