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Breast Cancer, Genetic Testing, and Public Policy

September 12, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

There’s a wonderful three-part interview with Shobita Parthasarathy, author of Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care , over at The World’s Fair. The interview is broken up into three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Here’s an excerpt from Part 1 to get your mouth watering:

WF: What’s your argument?
SP: I argue that the influence of national context is felt far beyond public policy and political debate to the level of practice, fundamentally influencing human genome science and technology. Through a comparison of how genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer (known as BRCA testing) was built in the United States and in Britain, I develop three arguments. First, I demonstrate that national context plays an important role in the development of science and technology, not merely in terms of its regulation but also in terms of how practices and artifacts are shaped. Second, I complicate most predictions of our genetic future by showing that genetic medicine is being built quite differently according to national context and that these variations have important consequences for our lives and for health care. In particular, I show that these national differences in how breast cancer genetic science was conducted and understood and how BRCA-testing technologies were built have influenced how genetic medicine is organized and regulated, how users are envisioned, and how risks and disease are being defined and redefined. Finally, I argue that these deeply embedded national differences in science and technology can help to explain some of the challenges to transnational technology transfer that are beginning to occur around the world in domains such as trade, intellectual property, and drug safety.

It’s a long interview, but I found it entirely fascinating and well-worth reading.

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