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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Socio-legal Features of Taiwan Biobank

With Ms Chih-Hsing Ho (London School of Economics)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective 

Date: Thursday 29 November 2007, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


Taiwan Biobank - a national-level human genetic database - aims to link human genotypic and phenotypic information for the benefit of biomedical research and with the intention of developing preventive medicine and promoting public health in general. This paper analyzes the extent to which genomic knowledge is conceptualized as truth-speaking activities and the Taiwan Biobank project as some sort of application of the truth. By doing critical analysis of policy narratives, we can see how the concept and meaning of genetic information has been socially constructed and may reflect the dynamic nature of knowledge configuration, policy-formation, and the relationship between language and scientific discourse. While population biobanking implies state intrusion into the cultivation of private life, the basis of an accepted understanding of nature and health in a society changes. However, what is the real impact of this biobank project on legal and ethical frameworks? In what ways should the proposed governance framework be deployed? While several international guidelines on ethical, legal and social implications mention issues such as privacy, informed consent and benefit sharing, the guidelines still leave leeway to individual states to implement real content. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether this biobank project can help lead the Taiwanese government toward more rights-respected forms of governance.

In addition, whether there is social trust in the biobank project raises questions about the ideals of governance in Taiwan and the possibility of Taiwanese people participating in decision-making in a transitional democratic society. Whether 'common good' or 'altruism' could be used as appealing slogans for Taiwanese people to voluntarily support this national policy depends on a variety of factors, from which a new understanding of the public sphere is taking shape. It is also worth considering where this biobank project can lead Taiwanese society, in terms of creating a new relationship between the state and the people.

About the speaker

Ms Chih-Hsing Ho is currently a PhD Candidate in law at the London School of Economics. Before coming to England, she received her LL.M. from Columbia Law School and a JSM from Stanford University. She was educated at the National Taiwan University where she studied jurisprudence and philosophy and graduated as the valedictorian. Her research interests are in the fields of law and social theory.