Some two decades ago, filmmaker Andrew Nicols wrote and directed GATTACA a sci-fi movie that presented a future in which individuals and society were at risk from having gained access to, and control of, our genetic code.
Today, 20 years after the movie's initial release, that future fiction, once considered distant and impossible, is, in many ways, now. More than 500 laboratories offer 2,000 genetic tests. Once limited to medical professionals, the FDA has approved direct-to-consumer genetic tests that can test for 5,000 variants. Instead of looking at simple chromosomes, we can pay for the sequencing almost all of our genetic material.
For some parents-to-be, prenatal genetic screening allows couples to decide whether to complete a pregnancy to term, or with preimplantation genetic diagnosis, allows them to allows couples to decide whether to have an embryo found to have "disorders and mutations" implanted at all.
Are we paying attention to the ways this information is, and could, alter the human race in ways once thought only possible in sci-fi novels and movies like GATTACA? While the general consensus in the scientific community seems to be to steer clear of research that affects hereditary genetic traits, the push to test that boundary seems inevitable.
To consider these questions in 2018, The Center for Genetics and Society and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society presented two screenings of GATTACA followed by panel discussions with the audiences in the Bay Area.
This episode of Life of the Law was produced by Senior Producer, Tony Gannon and Associate Producer Andrea Hendrickson. Nancy Mullane is our Executive Producer. Our Social Media Editor is Rachael Cain. We sampled audio clips from the film GATTACA. All other music was composed by Andrea Hendrickson. Katie Murphy audio described portions of the film.
We’re a non-profit project of the Tides Center and we’re part of the Panoply Network of Podcasts from Slate. You can also find Life of the Law on PRX, Public Radio Exchange.
© Copyright 2018 Life of the Law. All rights reserved.
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