The unleashing of genetic terminology: How genetic counselling mobilizes for risk management

  • Samerski S
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Nowadays every encounter with a health expert holds the danger of contracting risks. Especially women, when a family member develops breast cancer or when diagnosed as pregnant, leave their medical appointments saddled with doctor-attested risks, alleged prognoses, which then hang over their lives like a Damoclean sword. The epidemic beweilderment caused by the confusion between the attribution of a risk profile and a diagnosis has so far evaded the discussion it merits. Taking the example of prenatal genetic counselling, this paper argues that the unleashing of genetic terminology into the everyday world provokes this fundamental misunderstanding of risks: Genes change people's self-perceptions in such a way that they are ready to view statistical constructs as meaningful statements about themselves. By foisting causative agents into the client's body and by redefining her pregnancy as the execution of a genetic program, the counsellor prepares her to regard probabilistic calculations as threats lurking within her body. Based on the results of an empirical study of genetic counselling in Germany, this paper shows how professional consultations on genes and risks mobilize pregnant women to become risk managers of their own affairs.[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

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  • Silja Samerski

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