The University Record, March 19, 1996

U-M, MSU team looks at attitudes on genome technology

By Debbie Gilbert
News and Information Services

Who will decide how, when and to whom the emerging genome technology will be applied? Physicians and health professionals? Government policy-makers? Prospective parents? Ethicists?

The U-M and Michigan State University have launched a joint, three-year project that will tap into the opinions and values of all these groups about how this potentially powerful technology should be used to benefit future human lives. The projec t is funded by a $1,011,980 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The objective of the project is to develop policy recommendations that grow out of rational democratic deliberation among a wide range of groups and within a context of basic moral principles.

Toby Citrin, professor of public health, is the director of the Genome Technology and Reproduction: Values and Public Policy project.

"Our discussions will focus on the implications of science's increasing ability to predict physical traits and predispositions to disease at ever earlier stages of pregnancy and even prior to conception, and the use of emerging technology in connection with reproductive decisions," he says.

To gather information, the project has begun with focus groups in which participants discuss values and personal ethics in regard to genetic issues and reproductive decisions. The focus groups are being held in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, Gran d Rapids and Battle Creek.

The focus groups will be followed in the fall of 1996 and winter 1997 by community dialogues in six locales across Michigan-Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and Saginaw/Midland.

The third step in the project will be a national survey of attitudes related to genome technology and reproduction. "The values information we gather and the policies we recommend will be useful to policymakers and medical institutions across the country," Citrin says.