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Prevention in the age of personal responsibility: epigenetic risk-predictive screening for female cancers as a case study

Bolt, I; Bunnik, EM; Tromp, K; Pashayan, N; Widschwendter, M; de Beaufort, I; (2020) Prevention in the age of personal responsibility: epigenetic risk-predictive screening for female cancers as a case study. Journal of Medical Ethics 10.1136/medethics-2020-106146. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Epigenetic markers could potentially be used for risk assessment in risk-stratified population-based cancer screening programmes. Whereas current screening programmes generally aim to detect existing cancer, epigenetic markers could be used to provide risk estimates for not-yet-existing cancers. Epigenetic risk-predictive tests may thus allow for new opportunities for risk assessment for developing cancer in the future. Since epigenetic changes are presumed to be modifiable, preventive measures, such as lifestyle modification, could be used to reduce the risk of cancer. Moreover, epigenetic markers might be used to monitor the response to risk-reducing interventions. In this article, we address ethical concerns related to personal responsibility raised by epigenetic risk-predictive tests in cancer population screening. Will individuals increasingly be held responsible for their health, that is, will they be held accountable for bad health outcomes? Will they be blamed or subject to moral sanctions? We will illustrate these ethical concerns by means of a Europe-wide research programme that develops an epigenetic risk-predictive test for female cancers. Subsequently, we investigate when we can hold someone responsible for her actions. We argue that the standard conception of personal responsibility does not provide an appropriate framework to address these concerns. A different, prospective account of responsibility meets part of our concerns, that is, concerns about inequality of opportunities, but does not meet all our concerns about personal responsibility. We argue that even if someone is responsible on grounds of a negative and/or prospective account of responsibility, there may be moral and practical reasons to abstain from moral sanctions.

Type: Article
Title: Prevention in the age of personal responsibility: epigenetic risk-predictive screening for female cancers as a case study
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2020-106146
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2020-106146
Additional information: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Keywords: genetic screening/testing, technology/risk assessment
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Applied Health Research
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL EGA Institute for Womens Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL EGA Institute for Womens Health > Womens Cancer
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115847
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