Departmental Papers (HSS)

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Medical Humanities Review





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The Human Genome Project, the international effort to map and sequence the genetic material of Homo sapiens, has by now generated a mass of information about DNA sequences. It has also generated an independent, but related, mass of texts exploring the philosophical, historical, sociological, and legal implications for medical care, human identity, law, politics, and reproduction that the project raises. Indeed, the Human Genome Project is perhaps most noteworthy for its status as the first and only scientific project to fund independent studies of its own social implications. The genome project budget in the United States, which is divided among several federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy, includes a generous amount set aside for bioethicists, policy planners, historians, philosophers, and other scholars. Of the three books reviewed here, only one (Justice and the Human Genome Project) has any connection to this funding mechanism. But all reflect the popular and political interest that the genome project has provoked. Few of those commenting on the genome project in these studies are laboratory molecular biologists familiar with polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization, or any of the other technologies for manipulating DNA that have been so important to the project. They are, instead, scientific outsiders who are expected to shed light on the long-term social implications of the access to hereditary information that the genome project promises to make possible.

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The publication in which this review first appeared has since ceased.



Date Posted: 24 October 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.