Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 41-53

First online:

Defining the Subject of Consent in DNA Research

  • Gordon R. MitchellAffiliated withDepartment of Communication, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Kelly HappeAffiliated withDepartment of Communication, University of Pittsburgh

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The advent of population-specific genomic research has prompted calls for invention of informed consent protocols that would treat entire social groups as research subjects as well as endow such groups with authority as agents of consent. Critics of such an unconventional ethical norm of “group consent” fear the rhetorical effects of approaching social groups with offers to participate in dialogues about informed consent. Addressing a specific population as the collective subject of genomic research, on this logic, adds currency to the potentially dangerous public opinion that such a group is bound by genetic ties. The paper considers the problem of group and individual identity within the rhetorical dynamics of the discourse and politics of consent.

Rhetoric informed consent genetics African Burial Ground Project