Over-Reading the Human Genome: The Threat to Privacy, Employment, Group Identity, and Responsibility

Prof. Ellen Wright Clayton

Vanderbilt University 

Friday, February 25, 2005 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Theater, Coffman Memorial Union

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Increasing understanding of human genomics promises to revolutionize medicine, revealing much about the cause of disease and possible treatments. But the implications of genomics are much broader. Many have noted the threat to individual privacy, employment, insurance. Yet we also see subtler shifts in our understanding of genetic contributions to human behavior and the origins of different populations, raising difficult issues of individual responsibility and group identity. Prof. Clayton discussed both the subtler and the better-recognized implications of genomics. She suggested strategies to avoid over-reading the human genome and the overgeneticization of society.

The Deinard Memorial Lecture on Law & Medicine is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Joint Degree Program in Law, Health & the Life Sciences and the Center for Bioethics.

Support for the series comes from the law firm of Leonard Street and Deinard and the Deinard family.

Continuing legal education credit (CLE) for attorneys (1.5 hours) has been approved.

Ellen Wright Clayton

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, MS, has been a member of the Vanderbilt faculty since 1988. She is Rosalind E. Franklin Professor; Director of the Center for Genetics and Health Policy; Professor of Pediatrics (she is a practicing general pediatrician); and Professor of Law. Prof. Clayton received a bachelor's degree from Duke, a master's degree from Stanford, her law degree from Yale, and her medical degree from Harvard. 

Prof. Clayton has been involved with the human genome project in the United States for many years, currently serving as co-chair of the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Working Group of the International Haplotype Mapping Project. She has been thinking, writing, and talking about the implications of genetics for more than a quarter of a century. One of her primary goals is to promote public understanding and discussion of these important issues. Her other interests include research ethics, ranging from the use of stored tissue samples to international issues, ethical issues in pediatrics, and issues of women's health.

Author of two books and more than 75 articles and book chapters, including "Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Genomic Medicine," which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, she is an internationally sought after speaker and consultant. At Vanderbilt, she directs the new genetics course for medical students, is creating the law emphasis program for them, and teaches an interdisciplinary course in Bioethics and Law, which enrolls students from the law, divinity, and medical schools, as well as the graduate department of religion.