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Issues & Experts >  Issues & Experts Archive > Ethical genetics, health, and Iraq: Issues and Experts

Ethical genetics, health, and Iraq: Issues and Experts

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April 21, 2004

Preparing for a designer society…The ability to sequence and manipulate genetic material has brought society to the dawn of a new age: an age in which human beings design the society they want. How good, bad or beneficial is that?

The urgency of answering this question and addressing the issues it spawns is attracting a powerhouse of presenters to Conscience and Science, a SFU conference on the ethics of genetics. The director of SFU’s office of research ethics and the conference organizer, Hal Weinberg, plans to turn the event’s proceedings into a white paper that will be submitted to the provincial and federal governments.

Sir John Sulston, a Nobel Laureate, helped create the earliest genome maps and was instrumental in the sequencing of the human genome. Maureen McTeer is a specialist in biotechnological law and ethics, and was a member of the historic royal commission on new reproductive technologies. Sulston and McTeer will discuss the dangers of patenting basic genetic technology. David Suzuki is an award winning scientist and watchdog for the social and environmental impact of scientific advancements. Suzuki will address the extent to which the advancement of human genetics is altering the character of the human species. SFU psychologist Barry Beyerstein is an expert on brain behaviour and the impact of our society’s increasing reliance on psychopharmacology to dispel or ease mental illness. Beyerstein will moderate a student debate about the Chemical Shaping of Human Traits: Panacea or Pandora’s Box?

Other speakers include Caroline Weber, director general of Health Canada and Donald Riddle of Genome BC. Riddle is an expert on DNA coding for aging in nematodes. Many of the conference speakers are available to talk about their presentations and the ethics of genetics in the days leading up to the two-day event, April 28-29, at SFU’s Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

No-strings-attached health…Prime Minister Paul Martin may want to ensure that the provinces adhere to new national standards on their delivery of healthcare before handing over new money, but Alberta’s health minister says he can think again. Gary Mar says that the provinces and territories are unlikely to go for any deal that attaches strings to new federal money. In fact, Mar says Alberta will push for more radical reforms, including possible user fees or private reforms. SFU political scientist Daniel Cohn can explain why he thinks the ongoing interplay between Alberta and Ottawa about health is reminiscent of "a teen-parent dysfunctional relationship."
    Daniel Cohn, 604.291.5667, dcohn@sfu.ca
    (not available afternoon of Wednesday, April 21)

Troops pull out of Iraq…Is Spain’s pull out of Iraq a sign that many other nations will follow? SFU international politics expert Andre Gerolymatos can offer some reflection on this question and what an impending change of guard at the office of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq signifies. U.S. President George Bush has nominated UN ambassador John Negroponte as the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte is slated to assume his new post when the U.S. hands over political power to an interim Iraqi government. Gerolymatos can talk about the likelihood of this happening on target and its potential outcome.