Challenges for corporate ethics in marketing genetic tests

Journal of Business Ethics 77 (1):33 - 44 (2008)
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Abstract

Public discussions of ethical issues related to the biotechnology industry tend to treat “biotechnology” as a single, undifferentiated technology. Similarly, the pros and cons associated with this entire sector tend to get lumped together, such that individuals and groups often situate themselves as either “pro-” or “anti-” biotechnology as a whole. But different biotechnologies and their particular application context pose very different challenges for ethical corporate decision-making. Even within a single product category, different specialty products can pose strikingly different ethical challenges. In this paper, we focus on the single over-arching category of “genetic testing” and compare tests for disease susceptibility and drug response. We highlight the diversity of ethical challenges – grouped under the broad categories of “truth in advertising” and “protecting intellectual property” – raised by the commercialization and marketing of these technologies. By examining social and technical differences between genetic tests, and the associated corporate ethics challenges posed by their commercialization, our intent is to contribute to the nascent business ethics literature examining issues raised by the development and marketing of genetic tests.

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