Morality of inclusion:
probing the ethos of population structuring by `race` in contemporary medical genetics

In contemporary medical genetics `race` has been reintroduced as a population category. Presently, international medical genetic research efforts use race methodologically as a classificatory tool to identify, describe and analyse patterns of genetic diversity between human populations.


A principal objective within this area of research is to determine the medical implications of the structure of genetic variability in human populations, thereby to facilitate new insight in possible genetic causes for observed health differences between them. The general ambition is to develop appropriate medical genetic strategies for equalising health disparities between social groups. The revival of `race` in medical genetics is therefore arguably neither an explicit reintroduction of the notion of racial differences as genetically distinct substructures, nor a politically motivated discriminatory practice. Rather, the medical genetic concept of race is intended as an instrument for implementing socially inclusive public policy.
The practice of using race within the context of social inclusion gives rise to questions of substantial theoretical importance, not least ethical: to what extent is it morally defensible to use race as an inclusion-criteria in medical genetics? The purpose of the present project is to conduct a critical philosophical examination of this practice, and of how it is attempted morally justified framed within the particular context of inclusion. I will investigate how the discourse and practice of inclusion in biomedical- , clinical- and public health research, contextualise the moral debate concerning the legitimacy of `race` as inclusion-criteria in medical genetics. I will examine how the strategic role of `race` in the planning and execution of socially inclusive public policy programs within these contexts, may act to morally legitimise the use of race in medical genetics.
Framing my analysis from within the perspective of philosophy of medicine, this purpose entails a double principal research objective: to explicate and to critically assess the moral arguments for justifying the use of race as inclusion-criteria for recruitment of study populations in medical genetics. Three questions will be of particular interest for my undertaking. First, can unresolved ambiguities in the definition of race make it unclear whether race is an appropriate concept within a moral discourse of inclusion? Second, is there a critical moral distinction between using race for public health purposes to monitor adverse effects of discrimination and socioeconomic inequalities on the health of racial groups, and using race for medical genetic purposes to determine underlying genetic causal pathways of disease? Third, how does medical genetics render racial population categories in terms of health and disease; are the moral arguments set forth to justify race committed to reductionist notions of health and disease?


Hovedoppgave /Cand. Philol. Thesis:
Diskontinuitet og feil i Georges Canguilhem`s medisinske filosofi (Filosofisk institutt, UiB).


Øivind Michelsen

Cand Philol (filosofi)

PhD stipendiat Etikkprogrammet
2007 -2011, Seksjon for medisinsk etikk, UiO

Prof. Søren Holm, Jan Helge Solbakk, Bjørn Hofmann

Postadresse: Senter for medisinsk etikk
Postboks 1130 Blindern
0318 OSLO

Frederik Holsts hus, Kirkeveien 166


Tlf. (arbeid): 22 84 46 26

Tidligere stipend fra Etikkprogrammet: Nei