Volume 4, 1998
Bioethics and Medical Ethics
Heta Häyry, Tuija Lehto
Who Should Know About Our Genetic Makeup and Why?
Recent developments in biology have made it possible to acquire more and more precise information concerning our genetic makeup. There are four groups of people who may want to know about our genes. First, we ourselves can have an interest in being aware of own health status. Second, there are people who are genetically linked with us, and who can have an interest in the knowledge. Third, individuals with whom we have contracts and economic arrangements may have an interest in knowing about our genetic makeup. Fourth, society as a whole can have an interest in the composition of our genes. As regards the question of motivation, the term ‘should’ can be interpreted in three ways. Prudentially speaking, to say that individuals should act in a certain manner is to say that the actions in question promote the longterm self-interest of these individuals. From the viewpoint of morality, we should do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. When it comes to legal thinking, it is held in most liberal societies that grave other-regarding harm should be the primary justification for the use of coercion and constraint. In the paper, all these aspects are examined in more detail.