Washington, DC -- As scientists make major advancements in the field of genetics, there is an urgent need to apply rigorous ethical reflection and guidance particularly as it may apply to outcomes tied to race and ethnicity. Without such thoughtful inclusion, says a Georgetown University Medical Center bioethicist and Jesuit priest, the scientific advances in genetics and genomics “could well result in great harm, even while providing some benefits.”
In “Ethics at the Intersection of Pharmacoethnicity,” (Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics-advanced online publication July 2) Kevin FitzGerald, Ph.D., S. J., the David Lauler Chair for Catholic Health Care Ethics at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, addresses ethical challenges posed by pharmocoethnicity, which is the application of genetic and genomic discoveries to specific ethnicities and races.
FitzGerald advocates for diverse representation of a variety of views as technological advancements impact health care delivery and policies are developed, emphasizing that the public’s “improved understanding may bring about greater health-care benefits than any technological advance can.”
FitzGerald, a member of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society, points out that the country’s current health-care disparities and struggles with costs, privacy and communication of medical information demonstrates the need for a concerted and intentional effort at public engagement regarding pharmacogenomics and genetic testing.
“True progress will require a continued constructive dialogue among all the key constituents involved,” FitzGerald says.
“Who are the members of these key groups?” he asks. “If the promise of better health care is for all, then all will need to be involved – especially those who currently do not receive even adequate health care.”
FitzGerald acknowledges that external pressures such as fiscal realities will force prioritization in setting and pursuing goals such as creating a demand for research that promises rapid and significant improvement in actual health outcomes, pursuing legislation to protect harm or a greater focus on issues that may most effectively address health-care disparities.
“The genetic information that substantiates the need to move away from race and ethnicity as biologically related concepts is the fact that researchers usually find more genetic variation within various racial groups then between them,” FitzGerald writes.
About Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.