Ethics as Lived Practice. Anticipatory Capacity and Ethical Decision-Making in Forensic Genetics

Matthias Wienroth*, Rafaela Granja, Veronika Lipphardt, Emmanuel Nsiah Amoako, Carole McCartney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Greater scrutiny and demands for innovation and increased productivity place pressures on scientists. Forensic genetics is advancing at a rapid pace but can only do so responsibly, usefully, and acceptably within ethical and legal boundaries. We argue that such boundaries require that forensic scientists embrace ‘ethics as lived practice’. As a starting point, we critically discuss ‘thin’ ethics in forensic genetics, which lead to a myopic focus on procedures, and to seeing ‘privacy’ as the sole ethical concern and technology as a mere tool. To overcome ‘thin’ ethics in forensic genetics, we instead propose understanding ethics as an intrinsic part of the lived practice of a scientist. Therefore, we explore, within the context of three case studies of emerging forensic genetics technologies, ethical aspects of decision-making in forensic genetics research and in technology use. We discuss the creation, curation, and use of databases, and the need to engage with societal and policing contexts of forensic practice. We argue that open communication is a vital ethical aspect. Adoption of ‘ethics as lived practice’ supports the development of anticipatory capacity—empowering scientists to understand, and act within ethical and legal boundaries, incorporating the operational and societal impacts of their daily decisions, and making visible ethical decision making in scientific practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1868
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


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