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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2014011080
pages 253-267

Reconsidering Risk Groups: A Case of Ethical Reconstruction

Mark Tschaepe
Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX 77446
Tibor Solymosi
Department of History and Government, Bowie State University, Bowie MD 20715, USA


The initial and continual identification of risk groups is an ethical decision at all levels of discourse. Because of the normative aspect of identifying risk groups, especially within the biomedical sciences, we recommend considering reconstruction of the identification of risk groups that acknowledges community as preceding individuality before individuals are labeled as members of specific risk groups. This is an alternative to the common Western approach to risk groups that assumes individuals to be atomistic entities whose individuality precedes any group membership. In addition, we suggest that risk group identification be based on specific behaviors suspected as corollary with a particular health status when such identification is possible. In doing so, we offer a set of ethical tools that provides researchers a foundation by which to reconsider risk with regard to the community as a whole and the specific behaviors that increase risk within the community. As an example of the problems concerning normativity and risk groups, we examine the early case of AIDS and the initial labeling of homosexual men as the risk group for the disease. Our examination of this case reveals that the risk group label has, at times, been an ethically precarious one with dangerous consequences.