|Genome Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop
|172. The DNA Files: Unraveling
the Mysteries of Genetics
A Nationally Syndicated Series of Radio Programs on the Social Implications of Human Genome Research and its Applications
Bari Scott and Jude Thilman
The DNA Files is a series of nationally distributed public radio programs furthering public education on developments in genetic science. The series began broadcast on, at this writing, over 140 stations in November 1998. The producers anticipate an ultimate carriage of approximately 200 stations. The DNA Files is hosted by John Hockenberry and is distributed by National Public Radio. Program content is guided by a distinguished body of advisors and includes the voices of prominent genetic researchers, people affected by the clinical application of genetic medicine, members of the biotech industry, and others from related fields. They provide real-life examples of the complex social and ethical issues associated with new discoveries in genetics. In addition to the general public radio audience, the series targets educators, scientists, and involved professionals. Ancillary materials are distributed in digital form through the project's web site, which also features ethical scenarios with which the visitor can interact. The site address is http://www.dnafiles.org. Tapes and transcripts are available on request by calling 303.823.3000.
With information linking major diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and arteriosclerosis to genetic factors, new dangers in public perception emerge. Many people who hear about them could mistakenly conclude that these diseases can now be easily diagnosed and even cured. On the other end of the public perception spectrum, unfounded fears of extreme, and highly unlikely, consequences also appear. Will society now genetically engineer whole generations of people with "designer genes" offering more "desirable physical qualities"? The DNA Files will ground public understanding of these issues in reality. The programs in the series are documentary in format, featuring on location interviews, as well as radio theater and other techniques for conveying information about genetics and the social issues. An overview program, entitled "The Human Genome Project: Mapping the Future" consists of a hosted panel discussion with experts, with questions from the lay public interspersed into the discussion.
These nine programs describe the basic science of DNA, genes and heredity, while illustrating the accompanying social and ethical issues. "Law and the Genetics of Identity," for example, reviews the scientific methodology of genetic fingerprinting and explains the accuracy and use of this tool in criminal cases, as well as for establishing the identity of missing persons. "Gene Therapy: Medicine for Our Genes" follows the case of one man with mesothelioma, who is being treated with experimental gene therapy. His case provides a realistic illustration of the promise, as well as the current limits, of gene therapy. Other shows include "Genetics and Biotechnology: DNA in the Marketplace," "Prenatal Genetic Testing: Do You Really Want to Know Your Baby's Future?" and "The Genetics of Human Evolution: Where Did We Come From? Where Did We Go?"
Supported by ELSI grant DE-FG03-95ER62003
from the Office of Health and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department
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