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“Noble cause casuistry” in forensic genetics

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-11, 16:43 authored by Matthias Wienroth, Carole McCartney

In the forensic genetics community, too often one can find what we have called “noble cause casuistry”: scientists believing that, “since we are catching criminals, any ethical shortfalls in our work are negated by good outcomes.” Such casuistry is also characterized by the extrapolation of “success” in individual case work to assumptions of reliability and usefulness for all forensic genetic applications, in all contexts. The increasing and deepening interaction of forensic (epi)genetics technologies with broader surveillance logics, is also rarely problematized within the community, with a notable reticence to address fundamental and complex questions about the role of forensic genetics in society. Furthermore, despite some initial progress, forensic genetics largely remains content to be guided by “thin” empiricist ethics, foregrounding notions that “maths does not lie,” with little acknowledgement of the serious limitations of this approach. Outside of laboratory settings, social and cultural effects of forensic genetics technology alter regardless of the “maths.” As such, the field needs to adopt an ethos that centralizes and deepens their ethical bona fides, approaching ethics as “lived practice,” with community accountability similar to other public-serving professions and disciplines. This could commence with a commitment to professionalism, with a robust ethos grounded in both integrity and social justice.

History

Author affiliation

School of Law, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

WIREs Forensic Science

Publisher

Wiley

issn

2573-9468

eissn

2573-9468

Copyright date

2023

Available date

2023-12-11

Language

en

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