Open Access

Beyond genetic discrimination. Problems and perspectives of a contested notion

  • Thomas Lemke
Genomics, Society and Policy20051:22

Published: 15 December 2005


In the recent past a number of empirical studies provided evidence that increasing genetic knowledge leads to new forms of exclusion, disadvantage and stigmatisation. As a consequence, many states have inaugurated special legislation to fight "genetic discrimination".

This article focuses on some theoretical, normative and practical problems in the scientific and political debate on genetic discrimination. It puts forward the thesis that the existing antidiscrimination approach is based on the implicit idea that genes are the essence of (human) life. Since genes are held responsible for individual development and personal identity, genetic discrimination is granted a privileged legal status in comparison to other forms of discrimination. As a result the analytical and political concentration on processes of genetic discrimination may reinforce the "geneticization" of body, illness and deviance.


Engineer EthicInstitutional ActorGenetic DiscriminationUnequal TreatmentIndirect Discrimination