Public Genetic Health Policies in Africa

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Public Genetic Health Policies in Africa

It is of paramount importance that sensible and prudent public policies for the introduction and management of genetic research, technologies and therapies be adopted for countries on the African continent. The author agrees with Buchanan et al. when they claim that it is “unwise to consider the ethics of genetics only at the individual level. What matters is not merely the ethics of the individual scientist, physician or counsellor, but the broader questions of justice, of claims for freedom and for protection from harm, and our obligations towards future generations”. What is therefore important, is the development of a “public and institutional policy on genetics” (Ibid.) that is adopted for the needs of, specifically, the people of Africa. The author delineates three such issues, and indicates some moral aspects that accompany their understanding as well as the challenges that they pose. The three issues are: (i) The kinds of genetic technologies that are appropriate for African needs, (ii) The lessons about public health policy to be learned from (especially South African) policymakers’ appropriation of scientific expertise, (iii) Concerns about informed consent of patients and the competence of health care professionals in administering appropriate genetic remedies in African societies.

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