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Care of the Self and Patient Participation in Genetic Discourse: A Foucauldian Reading of the Surgeon General's “My Family Health Portrait” Program

  February, 14 2006 10:46
your information resource in human molecular genetics
Care of the Self and Patient Participation in Genetic Discourse: A Foucauldian Reading of the Surgeon General's “My Family Health Portrait” Program

Journal of Genetic Counseling

(Published online: 30 December 2005)

Benjamin R. Bates (1)

Author Affiliation:
(1) School of Communication Studies, Ohio University, Lasher Hall, Athens, OH, 45701, USA

Critics of genetic discourse are concerned that deterministic and discriminatory views of genetics are increasingly becoming adopted. These views argue that current genetic discourse becomes a source of power whereby powerful institutions harm people with so-called “bad” genes. This essay argues that current analyses of the power of genetics discourse are grounded in an improper reading that disempowers patients. Deploying Michel Foucault's concept “care of the self,” this essay claims that genetics discourse is better understood as a way that patients take on power through rhetoric rather than a force that has power over patients. Through a close reading of the “My Family Health Portrait” program, this paper argues that patients experience a process of “subjection” wherein they become agents of and objects of genetics discourse both. This alternative mode of analyzing the power of genetics discourse has implications for our collective understanding of the operations of the care of the self and the uses of genetic information that we propose. Keywords care of the self - genetic determinism - genetic discourse - genetic discrimination - Michel Foucault - My Family Health Portrait - power in medicine - United States Surgeon General's Family History Initiative.

Author Contact:
Benjamin R. Bates
Email: batesb@ohio.edu

(C) Journal of Genetic Counseling

Posted by: Tressie Dalaya

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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