Introducing Social and Ethical Perspectives on Gene—Environment Research

Gail E. Henderson Introducing Social and Ethical Perspectives on Gene—Environment Research  Sociological Methods & Research 2008 37: 251-276.

Sociologists are increasingly involved with the design and execution of studies that examine the interplay between genes and environment, requiring expertise in measurement of both genetic and nongenetic factors. In addition, there are important lessons from a literature, heretofore directed primarily at medical geneticists and clinical researchers, that examines the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of the genomic revolution. This article introduces ELSI perspectives on the challenges that confront investigators who undertake gene—environment research and offers nine recommendations based on this literature. These challenges include assessing how genetic information is understood; minimizing potential risks of harm from participation in gene—environment research; and considering ethical aspects of variable selection, study design, dissemination of study findings, and whether to disclose genetic results to individual participants.

Key Words: bioethics • ELSI program • genetics and ethics • gene—environment research

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