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Societal and Ethical Issues in Pharmacogenomics



Societal and Ethical Issues in Pharmacogenomics




Modem genetic findings do not support the antiquated notion of human races as separate subspecies or genetically distinct categories. Even though human races cannot be defined genetically, the concept of race may provide an important tool in treatment or research. In United States society, race is such an important stratifying practice that it plays a role in determining many features of people’s lives, features that affect health. Not all of these features are known or can be measured as separate variables. Scientists and physicians must determine when and how to use race, so that they obtain the most informative data and the best treatment outcomes. But using race is always dangerous because assumptions about the nature of race can undermine researchers’ and physicians’ abilities to conduct valid science or draw justified conclusions. The possibility that pharmacogenetics could result in racially stratified medicine, in which people of different races have different access to drugs, raises concerns about injustice. This chapter discusses some theories of justice and how each would contend with racially differentiated pharmacology research and treatment. It proposes that researchers and physicians apply a rebuttable presumption that any observed racial differences in treatment outcomes are not due to racial differences in allele frequencies.

Bibliographic Citation

Pilar Ossorio, Societal and Ethical Issues in Pharmacogenomics in Pharmacogenomics: Applications to Patient Care (2004).


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