Who's to blame? Accounts of genetic responsibility and blame among Ashkenazi Jewish women at risk of BRCA breast cancer

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Abstract

Genetic knowledge of disease risk may induce a sense of genetic responsibility whereby those who are at risk feel an obligation to take certain actions not only in relation to their own personal health but also to their family, their children and many other aspects of their life. This article examines genetic responsibility among Ashkenazi Jewish women at increased risk of BRCA genetic breast cancer. It demonstrates the ways in which accounts of blame help to mitigate or allocate genetic responsibility and in particular focuses on the temporal nature of women's accounts. Women locate responsibility or blame for genetic disease in the collective reproductive history of Ashkenazi Jews, currently among specific groups of Ashkenazi Jews, and this knowledge can have potential future reproductive consequences. A contradiction may arise between a pre-existing sense of responsibility to produce future generations of Jews with that of producing future breast cancer free children. The research is based on in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 high-risk Ashkenazi Jewish women in London, England.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)776-790
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Volume34
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Keywords

  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • BRCA
  • Blame
  • Breast cancer
  • Genetic responsibility
  • Reproductive consequences

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