March 31, 2014

Bioethicist lecture will focus on genetic selection

by Pete Rosenbery

One of the nation’s leading experts in reproductive medicine policy and law will discuss the opportunities and limits of genetic selection at Southern Illinois University School of Law. 

Judith F. Daar, a professor at Whittier Law School, will present the 2014 John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence lecture at the Southern Illinois University School of Law Center for Health Law and Policy.  

Daar will address “Currents in Reproductive Medicine: Examining the Opportunities and Limits of Genetic Selection,” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 2, in the courtroom in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.  The lecture is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographer and camera crews are welcome to cover the lecture. To make arrangements for interviews or for more information on the lecture, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communications and outreach, at 618-453-8700.  For the lecture in Springfield, contact Karen Carlson at 217-545-2155.

With the focus on genetic science over the last 15 to 20 years, reproductive medicine poses some of the most challenging questions facing health care, medical science and the law, said W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law.  “It raises a host of issues about what we do with the genetic information that we are now privy to as physicians, medical researchers and patients.” 

For parents, the genetic information about themselves or a fetus may lead to a variety of decisions with respect to a child.  That includes the likelihood of illness and desired genetic characteristics, Basanta said.  With access to genetic information there is a new world of eugenics and that poses major concerns, including what can and should be done with this information and “to what extent public policy should encourage or restrict use of this information.” 

“There are pretty challenging questions,” he said. 

Eugenics involves either attempting to improve a society by breeding positive heredity qualities, or at the other end of the spectrum, trying to erase purported genetic defects by discouraging or eliminating reproductive possibilities. 

In the late 19th Century to the 1930s there was a belief that eugenics could lower crime, poverty and disease, which in turn could lower taxes for costs associated with hospitals, prisons and mental wards. 

Daar has been on the Whittier Law School faculty since 1990 and from 2008 to 2012, was associate dean for academic affairs.  She holds a joint appointment with the law school and the UCI School of Medicine, and in 2008 was appointed to the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. 

Her latest book, “The New Eugenics: Selective Breeding in an Era of Reproductive Medicine,” will be published this year. 

In addition to the lecture, Daar will meet with the ethics committee from Southern Illinois Healthcare.  She will also present the lecture at 8:30 a.m., Friday, April 4, at the SIU School of Medicine’s South Auditorium, 801 N. Rutledge. 

This is the 10th bioethicist-in-residence lecture, and the eighth since John G. and Marsha C. Ryan endowed the visiting lecture series. 

Founded in 2006, The John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence supports an annual residence and lecture by a law or medicine ethics scholar for the SIU schools of law and medicine. The selected presenter visits classes at both schools and organizes interdisciplinary educational activities for students, residents and faculty. The presenter also interacts with students and offers a public lecture on the scholarship as it relates to law and medicine.