Risk, Responsibility, and Relationality: Positioning the Subjects of Psychiatric Genetic Testing
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This thesis explores the subject positions available to users of genetic tests for bipolar disorder in the United States. In advanced liberal societies, tests for genetic susceptibility to complex disorders may be promoted and used as means of performing responsible citizenship through the consumption of health care services. In the context of mental illness, however, key assumptions about the characteristics of consumers may not be met. The research found that because the category of “potential test user” substantially overlaps with the category of “mental health care user,” both the rationality and autonomy of these individuals is subject to question. Test users are framed in relational terms: as family members, as patients, and as consumers – but the last of these relational frames is considered problematic. Therefore, while the tests are framed as tools for proactive health management, responsibilities surrounding their use are largely allocated to family members and doctors.