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What Research Ethics Should Learn from Genomics and Society Research: Lessons from the ELSI Congress of 2011

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2021

Extract

In much the same way that genomic technologies are changing the complexion of biomedical research, the issues they generate are changing the agenda of IRBs and research ethics. Many of the biggest challenges facing traditional research ethics today — privacy and confidentiality of research subjects; ownership, control, and sharing of research data; return of results and incidental findings; the relevance of group interests and harms; the scope of informed consent; and the relative importance of the therapeutic misconception — have become important policy issues over the last 20 years because of the ways they have been magnified by genomic research efforts. Research that examines the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of human genomics research has become a burgeoning international field of scholarship over the last 20 years, thanks in part to its support first by the genome research funding bodies in the U.S. and then by national science agencies in other countries.

Type
Symposium
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2012

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References

The “2011 ELSI Congress: Expanding the ELSI Universe” was held in Chapel Hill, NC, from April 12–14, hosted by the Center for Genomics and Society at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an NHGRI-funded Center of Excellence in ELSI Research (P50 HG004488, Gail Henderson, PI). The Congress was funded by a supplement to this center grant. Other sponsors included the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences; the UNC School of Medicine, Department of Social Medicine; the UNC Center for Bioethics; the Wake Forest University Center for Bioethics, Health and Society; and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.Google Scholar
In the fall of 2003, the NHGRI in collaboration with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) launched a new initiative to create interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence in ELSI Research (CEER). The CEERs are designed to bring investigators from multiple disciplines together to work in innovative ways to address important new, or particularly persistent, ethical, legal, and social issues related to advances in genetics and genomics. In addition, the centers will support the growth of the next generation of researchers on the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic research. Special efforts will be made to recruit potential researchers from under-represented groups. See <http://www.genome.gov/ELSI/#al-4> (last visited December 7, 2012).+(last+visited+December+7,+2012).>Google Scholar
In January, 1990, the ELSI Working Group issued its first report and defined the function and purpose of the ELSI program as follows: “1. To anticipate and address the implications for individuals and society of mapping and sequencing the human genome; 2. To examine the ethical, legal and social consequences of mapping and sequencing the human genome; 3. To stimulate public discussion of the issues; 4. To develop policy options that would assure that the information be used to benefit individuals and society.” The ELSI Working Group envisioned a program that would anticipate problems and identify possible solutions and suggested a number of means to accomplish these goals. Specifically, it encouraged the research community to explore and gather data on a wide range of issues pertinent to the Human Genome Project that could be used to develop education programs, policy recommendations or possible legislative solutions. A number of focus areas were identified, including: fairness in the use of genetic information; the impact of knowledge of genetic variation on individuals; and privacy and confidentiality of genetic information. See <https://www.genome.gov/10001754#al-2accessed12/14/2012> (last visited December 14, 2012).+(last+visited+December+14,+2012).>Google Scholar
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On February 10, 2011, Nature magazine published NHGRI's strategic plan for the future of human genome research: “Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside.” This plan includes a section on Genomics and Society that outlines four areas that will need to be addressed as genomic science and medicine move forward. Based on these areas, the NHGRI has developed the following broad research priorities: 1. Genomic Research. The issues that arise in the design and conduct of genomic research, particularly as it increasingly involves the production, analysis and broad sharing of individual genomic information that is frequently coupled with detailed health information. 2. Genomic Health Care. How rapid advances in genomic technologies and the availability of increasing amounts of genomic information influence how health care is provided and how it affects the health of individuals, families and communities. 3. Broader Societal Issues. The normative underpinnings of beliefs, practices and policies regarding genomic information and technologies, as well as the implications of genomics for how we conceptualize and understand such issues as health, disease, and individual responsibility. 4. Legal, Regulatory and Public Policy Issues. The effects of existing genomic research, health and public policies and regulations and the development of new policies and regulatory approaches. See <http://www.genome.gov/10001618#al-2> (last visited December 7, 2012).+(last+visited+December+7,+2012).>Google Scholar
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A phrase coined by Eric Juengst to illustrate our point on behalf of the Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law (CGREAL) at Case Western Reserve University. Juengst, E., NIH Grant Application # 2 P50-HG003390–06, “Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law,” April 15, 2009.Google Scholar
A typology also anticipated by the research plan that currently frames the work of our CGREAL colleagues at Case Western Reserve University. Juengst, E., NIH Grant Application # 2 P50-HG003390–06, “Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law,” April 15, 2009.Google Scholar
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Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research (December 15, 2011).Google Scholar
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