The main objective of this study was to shed light on the moral reasoning of undergraduate Israeli students towards genetic dilemmas, and on how these are affected by their religious affiliation, by the field they study and by their gender. An open ended questionnaire was distributed among 449 undergraduate students in institutions of higher education in Israel, and their answers were analyzed according to the framework described by Sadler and Zeidler (Science Education, 88(1), 4–27, 2004). They were divided into two major categories: those whose reasoning was based on the consideration of moral consequences (MC), and those who supported their opinion by citing non-consequentialist moral principles (MP). Students’ elaborations to questions dealing with values towards genetic testing showed a correlation between the students’ religious affiliation and their reasoning, with religious students’ elaborations tending to be more principle based than those of secular ones. Overall, the students’ elaborations indicate that their main concern is the possibility that their personal genetic information will be exposed, and that their body’s personal rights will be violated. We conclude the paper by offering several practical recommendations based on our findings for genetic counseling that is specifically tailored to fit different patients according to their background.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Alvarado, K. A., Templer, D. I., Bresler, C., & Thomas-Dobson, S. (1995). The relationship of religious variables to death depression and death anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 202–204.
Aqueel, A. I. (2007). Islamic ethical framework for research into and prevention of genetic diseases. Nature Genetics, 39, 1293–1298.
Atkinson, B. E., & Malony, H. N. (1994). Religious maturity and psychological distress among older Christian women. Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 4, 165–179.
Awwad, R., McCarthy, V. P., Bartels, D. M., & LeRoy, B. S. (2008). Culture and acculturation influences on Palestinian perceptions of prenatal genetic counseling. Genetic Counseling, 17, 101–116.
Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Beekun, R. I., Stedham, Y., Westerman, J. W., & Yamamura, J. H. (2010). Effects of justice and utilitarianism on ethical decision making: a cross-cultural examination of gender similarities and differences. Business Ethics: A European Review, 19, 309–325.
Bell, R. L., & Lederman, N. G. (2003). Understandings of the nature of science and decision making on science and technology based issues. Science Education, 87(3), 352–377.
Boerwinkel, D. J., Knippels, M. C., & Waarlo, A. J. (2011). Raising awareness of pre-symptomatic genetic testing. Journal of Biological Education, 45(4), 213–221.
Bowling, B. V., Acra, E. E., Wang, L., Myers, M. F., Dean, G. E., Markle, G. C., et al. (2008). Development and evaluation of a genetics literacy assessment instrument for undergraduates. Genetics, 178, 15–22.
Byrnes, J. P., Miller, D. C., & Schafer, W. D. (1999). Gender differences in risk taking: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125(3), 367.
Creswell, J. W., & Miller, D. L. (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory Into Practice, 39(3), 124–130.
Curtis, M. B., Conover, T. L., & Chui, L. C. (2012). A cross-cultural study of the influence of country of origin, justice, power distance, and gender on ethical decision making. Journal of International Accounting Research, 11(1), 5–34.
Dawson, V., & Venville, G. J. (2009). High-school students’ informal reasoning and argumentation about biotechnology: an indicator of scientific literacy? International Journal of Science Education, 31(11), 1421–1445.
Dickerson, D. L., Dawkins, K. R., & Penick, J. E. (2008). Clergy’s views of the relationship between science and religious faith and the implications for science education. Science & Education, 17, 359–386.
Dietz, T., Fitzgeralds, A., & Shwom, R. (2005). Environmental values. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, 30, 335–372.
Dormandy, E., Tsui, E. Y. L., & Marteau, T. M. (2007). Development of a measure of informed choice suitable for use in low literacy populations. Patient Education and Counselling, 66, 278–295.
Elwyn, G., Frosch, D., Thomson, R., Joseph-Williams, N., Lloyd, A., Kinnersley, P., et al. (2012). Shared decision making: a model for clinical practice. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 27(10), 1361–1367.
Endicott, L., Bock, T., & Narvaez, D. (2003). Moral reasoning, intercultural development, and multicultural experiences: relations and cognitive underpinnings. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(4), 403–419.
Evers-Kiebooms, G., Welkenhuysen, M., Claes, E., Decruyenaere, M., & Denayer, L. (2000). The psychological complexity of predictive testing for late onset neurogenetic diseases and hereditary cancers: implications for multidisciplinary counselling and for genetic education. Social Science & Medicine, 51(6), 831–841.
Gordis, R. (1978). Abortion: major wrong or basic right. Midstream, 24, 44–49.
Gordon, E. S., Griffin, G., Wawak, L., Pang, H., Gollust, S. E., & Bernhardt, B. A. (2012). “It’s not like judgment day”: public understanding of and reactions to personalized genomic risk information. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 21(3), 423–432.
Haga, S. B., Barry, W. T., Mills, R., Ginsburg, G. S., Svetkey, L., Sullivan, J., & Willard, H. F. (2013). Public knowledge of and attitudes toward genetics and genetic testing. Genetic testing and molecular biomarkers, 17(4), 327–335.
Herman, T., Be’ery, G., Heller, E., Cohen, C., Lebel, Y., Mozes, H., et al. (2014). The national-religious sector in Israel 2014. Israel: Israel Democracy Institute.
Hogan, K. (2002). Small groups’ ecological reasoning while making an environmental management decision. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(4), 341–368.
Inglehart, R. F., & Norris, P. (2003). Rising tide: Gender equality and cultural change around the world. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Jaffee, S., & Hyde, J. S. (2000). Gender differences in moral orientation: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 126(5), 703.
Kaufman, D. J., Bollinger, J. M., Dvoskin, R. L., & Scott, J. A. (2012). Risky business: risk perception and the use of medical services among customers of DTC personal genetic testing. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 21(3), 413–422.
King, P. M., & Mayhew, M. J. (2002). Moral judgement development in higher education: insights from the defining issues test. Journal of Moral Education, 31(3), 247–270.
Koenig, H., King, D., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of religion and health. Oxford University Press.
Kortenkamp, K. V., & Moore, C. F. (2001). Ecocentrism and anthropocentrism: moral reasoning about ecological commoms dilemmas. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, 261–272.
Lee, O., Deaktor, R. A., Hart, J. E., Cuevas, P., & Enders, C. (2005). An instructional intervention’s impact on the science and literacy achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse elementary students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(8), 857–887.
Lewis, L. J. (2002). Models of genetic counseling and their effects on multicultural genetic counseling. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 11(3), 193–212.
Lindahl, M. G. (2009). Ethics or morals: understanding students’ values related to genetic tests on humans. Science & Education, 18(10), 1285–1311.
Loo, R., & Thorpe, K. (1998). Attitudes toward women’s roles in society: a replication after 20 years. Sex Roles, 39(11–12), 903–912.
Makoul, G., & Clayman, M. L. (2006). An integrative model of shared decision making in medical encounters. Patient Education and Counseling, 60(3), 301–312.
Marteau, T. M., Dormandy, E., & Michie, S. (2001). A measure of informed choice. Health Expectations, 4, 99–108.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2015). http://www.ninds.nih.gov. Retrieved 25/2/2015.
National Society of Genetic Counselors. (2013). http://www.nsgc.org. Retrieved 20/11/2013.
Ngim, C. F., Lai, N. M., Ibrahim, H., & Ratnasingam, V. (2013). Attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis and abortion in a multi-ethnic country: a survey among parents of children with thalassaemia major in Malaysia. Journal of Community Genetics, 4(2), 215–221.
Nucci, L. P. (2001). Education in the moral domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Oreg, S., & Katz-Gerro, T. (2006). Predicting proenvironmental behavior crass-nationally: values, the theory of planned behavior, and value-belief-norm theory. Environment and Behavior, 38, 462–483.
Ota Wang, V. (2001). Multicultural genetic counseling: then, now, and in the 21st century. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 106, 208–215.
Parette, P. (1999). Transition planning with families across cultures. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 22, 213–211.
Parsons, E. C., & Carlone, H. B. (2013). Culture and science education in the 21st century: extending and making the cultural box more inclusive. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(1), 1–11.
Peters, K. F., & Petrill, S. A. (2011). Development of a scale to assess the background, needs, and expectations of genetic counseling clients. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 155(4), 673–683.
Pivetti, M., & Melotti, G. (2013). Prenatal genetic testing: an investigation of determining factors affecting the decision-making process. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 22(1), 76–89.
Pivetti, M., Montali, L., & Simonetti, G. (2012). The discourse around usefulness, morality, risk and trust: a focus group study on prenatal genetic testing. Prenatal Diagnosis, 32(12), 1205–1211.
Powell, M., & Ansic, D. (1997). Gender differences in risk behaviour in financial decision-making: an experimental analysis. Journal of Economic Psychology, 18(6), 605–628.
Raz, A. E. (2004). Important to test, important to support”: attitudes toward disability rights and prenatal diagnosis among leaders of support groups for genetic disorders in Israel. Social Science & Medicine, 59(9), 1857–1866.
Raz, A. E. (2009). Community genetics and genetic alliances: Eugenics, carrier testing, and networks of risk. New York: Routledge.
Raz, A. E., & Atar, M. (2003). Nondirectiveness and its lay interpretations: the effect of counseling style, ethnicity and culture on attitudes towards genetic counseling among Jewish and Bedouin respondents in Israel. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 12(4), 313–332.
Richardson, H. S. (2014). In E. N. Zalta (ed.), “Moral reasoning”, The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter Edition), URL= http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/reasoning-moral/.
Rosner, G., Rosner, S., & Orr-Urtreger, A. (2009). Genetic testing in Israel: an overview. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, 10, 175–192.
Rothbart, M. K., Hanley, D., & Albert, M. (1986). Gender differences in moral reasoning. Sex Roles, 15(11–12), 645–653.
Saaty, T. L. (2000). Fundamentals of decision making and priority theory with the analytic hierarchy process (Vol. 6). Pittsburgh: Rws Publications.
Sadler, T. D., & Donnelly, L. A. (2006). Socioscientific argumentation: the effects of content knowledge and morality. International Journal of Science Education, 28(12), 1463–1488.
Sadler, T. D., & Zeidler, D. L. (2004). The morality of socioscientific issues: construal and resolution of genetic engineering dilemmas. Science Education, 88(1), 4–27.
Sadler, T. D., & Zeidler, D. L. (2005). Patterns of informal reasoning in the context of socioscientific decision making. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(1), 112–138.
Schiff, D. (2002). Abortion in Judaism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25(1), 1–65.
Seth, S. G., Goka, T., Harbison, A., Hollier, L., Peterson, S., Ramondetta, L., et al. (2011). Exploring the role of religiosity and spirituality in amniocentesis decision-making among Latinas. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 20(6), 660–673.
Shaw, A. (2011). Risk and reproductive decisions: British Pakistani couples’ responses to genetic counselling. Social Science & Medicine, 73(1), 111–120.
Shaw, A., & Hurst, J. A. (2008). “What is this genetics, anyway?” Understandings of genetics, illness causality and inheritance among British Pakistani users of genetic services. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 17, 373–383.
Sher, C., Romano-Zelekha, O., Green, M. S., & Shohat, T. (2003). Factors affecting performance of prenatal genetic testing by Israeli Jewish women. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 120(3), 418–422.
Shiloh, S. (1994). Heuristics and biases in health decision making: their expression in genetic counseling. In L. Heath, & R. S. Tindale (Eds.), Applications of heuristics and biases to social issues (pp. 13–30). New York: Plenum Press.
Siani, M., & Assaraf, O. B. (2015). University students’ attitudes towards genetic testing: a comparative study. American Journal of Public Health Research, 3(3), 81–90.
Signorielli, N. (2012). Gender-role socialization in the twenty-first century. In A. N. Valdivia (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of media studies: Media history and the foundations of media studies. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from doi:10.1002/9781444361506.wbiems116.
Solli, A., Bach, F., & Åkerman, B. (2014). Learning to argue as a biotechnologist: disprivileging opposition to genetically modified food. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(1), 1–23.
Starr, L. J. (2010). Does anyone really know anything? An exploration of constructivist meaning and identity in the tension between scientific and religious knowledge. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 5, 191–200.
Stephens, M., Jordens, C. F., Kerridge, I. H., & Ankeny, R. A. (2010). Religious perspectives on abortion and a secular response. Journal of Religion and Health, 49(4), 513–535.
Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a coherent theory of environmantally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407–424.
Stern, P. C., Dietz, T., Abel, T., Guagnano, G. A., & Kalof, L. (1999). A value-belief-norm theory of support for social movements: the case of environmental concern. Human Ecology Review, 6(2), 81–97.
Taylor, S. (2011). A population-based survey in Australia of men’s and women’s perceptions of genetic risk and predictive genetic testing and implications for primary care. Public Health Genomics, 14(6), 325–336.
Ten Have, H. (2001). Genetics and culture: the geneticization thesis medicine. Health Care and Philosophy, 4, 295–304.
Tibben, A. (1993). What is knowledge but grieving? On psychological effects of presymptomatic DNA-testing for Huntington’s disease. Thesis, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Tytler, R. (2012). Socio-scientific issues, sustainability and science education. Research in Science Education, 42(1), 155–163.
Van der Zande, P., Akkerman, S. F., Brekelmans, M., Waarlo, A. J., & Vermunt, J. D. (2012). Expertise for teaching biology situated in the context of genetic testing. International Journal of Science Education, 34(11), 1741–1767.
Vedder-Weiss, D., & Fortus, D. (2012). Adolescents’ declining motivation to learn science: a follow-up study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(9), 1057–1095.
Wagner, S. C., & Sanders, G. L. (2001). Considerations in ethical decision-making and software piracy. Journal of Business Ethics, 29(1–2), 161–167.
Weil, J. (2001). Multicultural education and genetic counseling. Clinical Genetics, 59(3), 143–149.
Wert, G. D., Meulen, R. T., Mordacci, R., & Tallacchini, M. (2003). Ethics and genetics: A workbook for practitioners and students. Berghahn Books.
Williams, D. R., Larson, D. B., Buckler, R. E., Heckmann, R. C., & Pyle, C. M. (1991). Religion and psychological distress in a community sample. Social Science & Medicine, 32(11), 1257–1262.
Wilsdon, J., & Willis, R. (2004). See-through science: Why public engagement needs to move upstream. London: Demos.
Woltanski, A. R., Cragun, R. T., Myers, M. F., & Cragun, D. L. (2009). Views on abortion: a comparison of female genetic counselors and women from the general population. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 18(1), 28–41.
Zayts, O., Sarangi, S., Thong, M. K., Chung, B. H. Y., Lo, I. F. M., Kan, A. S. Y., ... & Wasant, P. (2013). Genetic counseling/consultation in South-East Asia: a report from the workshop at the 10th Asia Pacific conference on human genetics. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 22(6), 917–924.
Zeidler, D. L., Herman, B. C., Ruzek, M., Linder, A., & Lin, S. S. (2013). Cross-cultural epistemological orientations to socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(3), 251–283.
Zlotogora, J. (2002). Parental decisions to abort or continue a pregnancy with an abnormal finding after an invasive prenatal test. Prenatal Diagnosis, 22(12), 1102–1106.
Zohar, A., & Nemet, F. (2002). Fostering students’ knowledge and argumentation skills through dilemmas in human genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(1), 35–62.
No grants or funding obtained for this study.
Conflict of Interest
Merav Siani and Orit Ben-Zvi Assaraf declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human Studies and Informed Consent
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.
About this article
Cite this article
Siani, M., Ben-Zvi Assaraf, O. The Moral Reasoning of Genetic Dilemmas Amongst Jewish Israeli Undergraduate Students with Different Religious Affiliations and Scientific Backgrounds. J Genet Counsel 25, 596–609 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10897-015-9918-5
- Moral reasoning
- Genetic dilemma
- Undergraduate students
- Decision making
- Religious affiliation
- Genetic testing
- Qualitative analysis