Bioethics Beyond Ethics: Genetic Testing, Genetization and Social Change in Spain
Drawing ispiration from some pioneer studies on biomedicalisation and
geneticization, this paper conducts an exploratory analysis of some of the social and political challenges that the diffusion of genetic testing technologies (GTTs)increasingly poses to the current policies of biomedical innovation and healthcare. Drawing on a series of semi-structured interviews with experts in genetics, the paper specifically explores the Spanish context. The outcomes of the analysis seem to suggest that GTTs are playing a crucial role in the complex interaction between biomedicalisation and geneticization. Fueling on the rapid increase of health expenditure, GTTs also seem to encourage the emergence of new health care policies, based on an individualistic and consumeristic conception of health, disease and healthcare. Although the clinical practice has been so far almost unaffected, the research agenda seems to be increasingly shaped by a narrow approach to common diseasesm, focusing on genetic predispositions whilst neglecting social and environmental factors. Although we haven’t found any evidence of existing genetic discrimination practices, the possibility that a wrong social perception and use of genetic information may give rise to discrimination in insurance and employment cannot be entirely ruled out. In contrast, the diffusion of pre-natal and pre-implantation genetic testing is actually
endorsing so called ‘weak eugenics’ processes that are gradually shifting the emphasis from primary to secundary prevention. These results urge current systems of genetic technology regulation, generally focusing on bioethical or technical considerations, to broaden the dominant cognitive approach with new insights from empirical studies on the social and political implications of a large-scale implementation of the new genetic technologies.
Keywords: Genetic Testing, Biomedicalization, Social Change, Healthcare Policy, Research and Innovation Policies
Dr. Vincenzo Pavone
Researcher in Science and Technology Studies, Unit of Comparative Politics (UPC), CSIC (National Research Council of Spain)