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Eugenomics: Eugenics and Ethics in the 21st Century

Abstract

With a shift from genetics to genomics, the study of organisms in terms of their full DNA sequences, the resurgence of eugenics has taken on a new form. Following from this new form of eugenics, which I have termed "eugenomics", is a host of ethical and social dilemmas containing elements patterned from controversies over the eugenics movement throughout the 20th century. This paper identifies these ethical and social dilemmas, drawing upon an examination of why eugenics of the 20th century was morally wrong. Though many eugenic programs of the early 20th century remain in the dark corners of our history and law books and scientific journals, not all of these programs have been, nor should be, forgotten. My aim is not to remind us of the social and ethical abuses from past eugenics programs, but to draw similarities and dissimilarities from what we commonly know of the past and identify areas where genomics may be eugenically beneficial and harmful to our global community. I show that our ethical and social concerns are not taken as seriously as they should be by the scientific community, political and legal communities, and by the international public; as eugenomics is quickly gaining control over our genetic futures, ethics, I argue, is lagging behind and going considerably unnoticed. In showing why ethics is lagging behind I propose a framework that can provide us with a better understanding of genomics with respect to our pluralistic, global values.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0 ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Aultman, J.M. Eugenomics: Eugenics and Ethics in the 21st Century. Life Sci Soc Policy 2, 28 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-5354-2-2-28

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Keywords

  • Social Dilemma
  • ESRC Genomic Network
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Moral Wrong
  • Undesirable Trait