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Rhetorics of choice have dominated the biosocial discourses surrounding BRCA risk for decades, telling women at genetic risk for breast and ovarian cancers that they are free to choose how (and whether) to deal with their risk. Critics argue that women at genetic risk are, in fact, not free to choose but rather are forced to make particular choices. In Being at Genetic Risk, Kelly Pender argues for a change in the conversation around genetic risk that focuses less on choice and more on care.
Being at Genetic Risk offers a new set of conceptual starting points for understanding what is at stake with a BRCA diagnosis and what the focus on choice obstructs from view. Through a praxiographic reading of the medical practices associated with BRCA risk, Penders analysis shows that genetic risk is not just something BRCA+ women know, but also something that they do. It is through this doing that genetic cancer risk becomes a reality in their lives, one that we can explain but not one that we can explain away.
Well researched and thoughtfully argued, Being at Genetic Risk will be welcomed by scholars of rhetoric and communication, particularly those who work in the rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine, as well as scholars in allied fields who study the social, ethical, and political implications of genetic medicine. Penders insight will also be of interest to organizations that advocate for those at genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancers.