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Promising GenomicsIceland and deCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation$
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Michael Fortun and Roberto Reis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520247505

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520247505.001.0001

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(p.266) Ch 21 EthicsXExpediency
Promising Genomics

Mike Fortun

University of California Press

In 1999, deCODE Genetics printed a “code of ethics” written by “a group of deCODE employees,” with the Ethics Institute of the University of Iceland listed as “Advisors.” No people were listed, just these collectivities. The twenty-page booklet with a heavy blue-paper cover was produced and mailed to the entire population of Iceland. As is often the case with ethics, and particularly codes of ethical principles, there is not a single concrete noun in deCODE's principles that signifies any specific historical, cultural, or institutional body or event; there is only a homogeneous population of bland abstractions. Biochemistry has more to do with ethics, in Halldór Laxness's view, than any theological or even humanist exegesis. “There is only one world in existence,” was the chord struck by the organist, “and in it there prevail either expedient or inexpedient conditions for those who are alive.” This elevation of “expediency” to a kind of ethical principle intrigued the author, and it kept reoccurring in Laxness's novel The Atom Station, often in tandem with biochemical references.

Keywords:   Halldór Laxness, deCODE Genetics, code of ethics, Iceland, biochemistry, expediency, Atom Station

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