“Medical Ethics and the Holocaust” Concludes with a Look into the Next Generation of Discrimination through Genetic Tampering

HOUSTON (Dec. 10, 2007) – “Medical Ethics and the Holocaust,” a 15-part lecture series presented by Holocaust Museum Houston, will conclude with a warning against tampering with the genetic code — tampering that could lead to the next generation of discrimination.

On Jan. 7, 2008, Henry T. Greely, J.D., a professor of genetics and director of the Center for Law and Biosciences and the Program on Stem Cells in Society at Stanford University, will present, “From Nuremberg to the Human Genome and Beyond – From Human Rights to Human Interests.” Greely will discuss the misuse of genetic information and biological samples of patients. The modern system of protecting people who are subjects of medical experimentation has its roots in the trials of Nazi doctors at Nuremberg. While the Nuremberg Code has done a relatively good job of protecting people from physical harm, Greely will attempt to illustrate that not enough has been done to protect sensitive genetic information from prying eyes of other doctors, insurance companies and medical staff.

On January 17, 2008, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Christine Rosen, Ph.D., senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society will both ask what happens when DNA tampering leads to genetic discrimination — the type of discrimination used against victims of the Holocaust more than sixty years ago.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the University of Houston as their annual Elizabeth Dr. Rockwell Ethics and Leadership Lecture and will be held in the Cullen Performance Hall at the University of Houston, Entrance 1 at 7 p.m.

Advances in genetics have allowed medical professionals the ability to define how the genome functions and how genetic variation plays a role in one’s health. Physicians are better able to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases. Consequences of these advances are genetic discrimination, inequitable access to health care and the inadequate oversight of genetic tests. Collins will discuss how it will take the full involvement of scientists, health care providers, policymakers and society at large, together with an appreciation of history, to ensure that the medical benefits of the genome revolution are not misused.

In her presentation, Rosen will discuss how eugenics, the movement to improve the human race through better breeding that influenced the practices of the Third Reich, has long been held in disrepute. Nevertheless, she will point out that society continues to practice eugenics through sex selection, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and the abortion of fetuses diagnosed with diseases such as Down Syndrome. Rosen will address that despite the frequent notion of “designer babies” or “Brave New Worlds,” the challenge of eugenics in the 21st century is not about preventing the rise of genetic “haves-and-have nots,” but the fact the society must define what is meant by the term “healthy,” the same challenge faced by medical professionals in the 20th century.

Greely’s lecture will take place at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline St., and will begin at 6 p.m. It has been designated as the Holocaust Museum Houston’s Annual Leon Jaworski Lecture and has been underwritten by Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.

All lectures are free, but advanced registration is required. For information on CME and CNE credits for medical professionals attending this program, visit www.utcme.net. All lectures also can be accessed through the World Wide Web via webcast or through The University of Texas’ teleconferencing system at participating facilities. Please visit www.hmh.org/medethics for more information on viewing the lecture via the Web or at an off-site location.

An exhibit, “How Healing Becomes Killing: Eugenics, Euthanasia and Extermination,” complements the lecture series and provides provocative historical documentation of the role played by scientists, physicians and government officials at the six “euthanasia” centers where they murdered thousands of Germany’s most vulnerable citizens. There is no admission charge to view the exhibit, now in the Mincberg Gallery at the Museum’s Morgan Family Center (5401 Caroline St.) in Houston’s Museum District. The exhibit runs through Feb. 3, 2008. Viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information about “Medical Ethics and the Holocaust,” visit www.hmh.org/medethics.