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Moral landscapes and everyday life in families with Huntington's disease: Aligning ethnographic description and bioethics

By Lotte Huniche

Abstract

This article is concerned with understanding moral aspects of everyday life in families with Huntington's Disease (HD). It draws on findings from an empirical research project in Denmark in 1998-2002 involving multi-sited ethnography to argue that medical genetics provides a particular framework for conducting life in an HD family. A framework that implies that being informed and making use of genetic services expresses greater moral responsibility than conducting life without drawing on these resources. The moral imperative of engagement in medical genetics is challenged here by two pieces of ethnographic analysis. The first concerns a person who, as described by a family member, does not engage with medical genetics but who brings to the fore other culturally legitimate concerns, priorities and areas of responsibility. The second figures a genetic counselling session where neither the knowledge nor the imagined solutions of medical genetics are as unproblematic and straightforward as might be thought. To assist our understanding of the moral aspects of living with severe familial disease, the ethnographic analysis is aligned with bioethical reflections that place the concrete concerns of those personally involved centre stage in the development of theoretical stances that aim to assist reflections in practice.Denmark Everyday life Huntington's disease Morality Ethnography Bioethics

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