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Am I My Genes?: Confronting Fate and Family Secrets in the Age of Genetic Testing [Hardcover]

by Robert Klitzman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2012 0199837163 978-0199837168 1
In the fifty years since DNA was discovered, we have seen extraordinary advances. For example, genetic testing has rapidly improved the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as Huntington's, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, and Alzheimer's. But with this new knowledge comes difficult decisions for countless people, who wrestle with fear about whether to get tested, and if so, what to do with the results.

Am I My Genes? shows how real individuals have confronted these issues in their daily lives. Robert L. Klitzman interviewed 64 people who faced Huntington's Disease, breast and ovarian cancer, or Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The book describes--often in the person's own words--how each has wrestled with the vast implications that genetics has for their lives and their families. Klitzman shows how these men and women struggle to make sense of their predicament and its causes. They confront a series of quandaries--whether to be tested; whether to disclose their genetic risks to parents, siblings, spouses, offspring, friends, doctors, insurers, employers, and schools; how to view and understand themselves and their genetics; what treatments, if any, to pursue; whether to have children, adopt, screen embryos, or abort; and whether to participate in genetic communities. In the face of these uncertainties, they have tried to understand these tests and probabilities, avoid fatalism, anxiety, despair, and discrimination, and find hope, meaning, and a sense of wholeness. Forced to wander through a wilderness of shifting sands, they chart paths that many others may eventually follow.

Klitzman captures here the voices of pioneers, some of the first to encounter the personal dilemmas introduced by modern genetics. Am I My Genes? is an invaluable account of their experience, one that will become all the more common in the coming years.

"An extraordinary exploration...probing the many roles and implications of genetics in our lives today.... Filled with astonishing insights, this riveting book is vital reading for us all."
--Paula Zahn

"Klitzman lucidly discusses the moral and psychological complexities that come in the wake of genetic testing.... An important book for anyone who has the genes for pathology, which is all of us, and I recommend it highly."
--Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind

"An illuminating voyage through the medical, familial and existential quandaries faced by those of us at genetic risk."
--Thomas H. Murray, President and CEO, The Hastings Center

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Editorial Reviews


In Am I My Genes?, the psychiatrist and ethicist Dr. Robert L. Klitzman plunges readers into the world of genomic medicine as it exists today: a barely mapped terrain of immense overlapping uncertainties...this book should make compelling reading for anyone considering genetic testing for these or any other conditions: It provides an instant community of fellow travelers along with a sophisticated moderator."
-Abigail Zuger, M.D., New York Times

"Am I My Genes? should be required reading for students of genetic counseling--and for people facing the challenges of genomic health in their own lives." -- Michael A. Goldman, Science Magazine

"The greatest strength of the book is the detail and nuance it offers based on in-depth interviews andKlitzman's careful parsing of the different issues the interviewees face.... As Klitzman concedes, he has "raised more questions than [he has] wholly answered." But that is his goal: "to illuminate the wide range of complexities and challenges
that genetics can pose, to help ready us--as individuals and as a broader society-- for the onslaught of genetic information that is fast approaching, whether we want it or not" (321). Klitzman has succeeded in brightly illuminating those challenges." -- Sonia M. Suter, GeorgeWashington University Law School, The American Journal of Bioethics

"The book provides a novel window into the world of regular people facing unprecedented problems in the new world of genetic technologies, and the author is correct in noting that we have a lot to learn from these pioneers." -- DOODY'S

About the Author

Robert Klitzman is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and the Director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University. He co-founded and for five years co-directed the Columbia University Center for Bioethics, and is the Director of the Ethics and Policy Core of the HIV Center. He is the author of When Doctors Become Patients, A Year-long Night: Tales of a Medical Internship, In a House of Dreams and Glass: Becoming a Psychiatrist, and other works.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199837163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199837168
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, where I direct the Masters of Bioethics Program.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading February 27, 2012
If you want to know more about your DNA, and especially if you don't, read AM I MY GENES? Klitzman's interviews are revelatory and concise. Each one took me on that person's journey and made me wonder What would I do? This is hard science transposed into brilliant, moving, accessible prose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Complicated Genes March 3, 2012
By hambone
Klitzman is a fine, clear, measured guide to a far more complicated topic than I had anticipated. I'm not a scientist and I'm no academic, but contrary to the recent review in the New York Times, this is a readable, understandable book for any inquiring mind. Klitzman is especially good at explaining and showing the ethical issues that come up when people know their genetic make up. Will their health insurance rates go up? Should they share the information with colleagues? Should they even bother to get tested (a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing)? What I found especially fascinating were the mental leaps people made to explain an illness and show that it had nothing to do with genes. I read this book without knowing anything about the subject and found it extremely helpful.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great coverage of an emerging topic January 11, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The authors approach to how genetics are and will someday play an even greater role in our decision making we're excellent. The reason I didn't give this a higher rating is the writing style was a bit repetitious and not compelling.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Thorough, Academic January 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is more academic than I thought it would be. Still a very good look at the issues raised and research compiled.
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2 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not likely.... March 22, 2012
I have not read this book and I am not likely to how can I claim to write a review of it or give it only two stars.? Simply because it has been reviewed by others and clips are posted on the net so I can make a judgment about it. I would give it only one star but the author deserves some credit for his effort. Take this quote for example posted by NPR: "Clearly, at times, much hype and "genetic reductionism" occur, but the study of DNA is also still in its infancy. Our comprehension of genetics and its potential effects is (sic) still young. Now, at the start of a new millennium, it is impossible to predict what the future, or even just the next 50, 100, or 200 years will bring. To profound and unique extents, our DNA clearly helps shape us -- for example, key aspects of how we look and whether we may be predisposed to develop certain diseases. To what degree and how exactly it does so, however, remain unknown." So, if most of the subject of this book is still unknown, why bother to read it? And, why did the publisher issue it? Or, why did the author write it? Such questions have no more clear answers than the one posed in its title. And yet, it happened. Perhaps the future discoveries in epigenetics will help provide the knowledge this book cannot yet supply.

What this book does illustrate though are the five principles in Theofatalism(tm) (google it for reference.) Everything is happening as it must or it would be different, and there is only indefinite uncertainty about the future, and that awareness leads to necessary human anxiety.
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