Intended for healthcare professionals


Neurogenetic determinism and the new euphenics

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 29 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1488

Psychosocial and ethical issues in psychiatric genetics require constructive debate

  1. Nick Craddock, Senior research fellow in clinical sciences (,
  2. Ian R Jones, Wellcome Trust fellow in mental health,
  3. Lindsey Kent, Wellcome Trust fellow in mental health
  1. Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital, Birmingham B15 2QZ
  2. Centre for Child Health, Dundee DD3 6HH
  3. Brain and Behaviour Research Group, Open University, Milton Keynes MK76AA

    EDITOR—Various implications of advances in understanding of the genetic contribution to susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders must be debated. Rose's article on this subject, however, contains important errors of fact, severely misrepresents current research, and is neither reasoned nor balanced.1

    He accuses researchers of simplistically assuming that behaviours are genetically determined. In fact, most researchers in the field, ourselves included, are fully aware of the complexity of pathogenesis and accept a model in which both genetic and non-genetic factors influence susceptibility to disease.24 Rose makes the unfounded and disingenuous presumption that researchers seek to identify genes “with a view to … aborting fetuses which show the potential for … undesirable characteristics or generating drugs which will alleviate the condition, turn gays into straights, or radicals into conservatives.” This emotive statement both misrepresents and trivialises the aim of most research, which is to better define the pathophysiology of major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Rose gives the impression that this desirable end is a fortuitous byproduct of research. In fact, it is the primary motivation.

    Rose also attacks psychiatrists for creating illnesses where none exist. He offers attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as an example that he claims “was almost unknown in the United Kingdom a decade ago” and berates psychiatrists for prescribing the stimulant methylphenidate as a …

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