Ethical, Legal & Social Issues

Since the inception of the Human Genome Project in 1990, the mapping and sequencing of the human genome has been accompanied by the effort to study the ethical, legal, and social implications of these ongoing activities. This simultaneous effort, known by the acronym ELSI, has resulted in a rich body of writings and policy recommendations, and has become established as a continuing program at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Society is at a unique crossroads—the fields of public health, genetics, and ethics are all merging together into a single discipline. With the increasing recognition of genetics' role in public health, there is a parallel need to study ELSI issues relating to genetics in the public health context. The PHELSI area is based on a different perspective, characteristic of the types of dilemmas emerging from genetics' application to public health research and practice. In many ways, the public health perspective, which applies to entire communities and populations, creates challenges calling for ethical, legal, and social approaches distinct from those embraced by traditional bioethics. Key points on which they differ are described in the attached document which outlines the emerging landscape of Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Public Health Genetics (PDF).