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MEDIA ADVISORY: 02.24.11 Erik Parens to Speak About Behavioral Genetics at Feb. 28 Meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

(Garrison, NY) Hastings Center Scholar Erik Parens, PhD, will speak about behavioral genetics to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on Monday, February 28. The meeting kicks off the Commission’s examination of the ethical and policy issues raised by genetics and neuroscience. Topics will include the use of genetics, neuroscience, and neuroimaging for testing, research, diagnosis, risk identification, and health promotion. Parens was invited to discuss what he considers the most pressing ethical and social issues that behavioral genetics research raises.

Parens’ research examines how we use new technologies to shape ourselves and how emerging science shapes our self-understanding. He has written extensively on the topic, including co-editing the book Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics: Science, Ethics, and Public Conversation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). He is co- principal investigator on a project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which explores the controversies surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral disturbances in children, and another, funded by The Dana Foundation, investigating the uses and misuses neuroimaging technologies.

Other speakers on February 28 include Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Bruce Rosen, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School; and Susan Wolf, JD, University of Minnesota;

The Commission will also begin a review of human subjects protection on Tuesday, March 1, in response to President Obama’s request that the Commission examine whether current federal rules adequately protect research participants from harm or unethical treatment, domestically as well as internationally. This request followed the revelation last fall that the U.S. Public Health Service supported research about sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 that involved intentionally infecting vulnerable human populations. Susan Reverby, PhD, the historian who discovered and disclosed the unethical Guatemala syphilis studies, wrote a follow-up about her research in Bioethics Forum, The Hastings Center blog. She will be speaking before the Commission on Tuesday.

Monday’s session will end with a speakers’ roundtable with members of the Commission. Amy Gutmann, Commission Chair and President of the University of Pennsylvania, is also a Hastings Center Fellow.  Please see the agenda for full list of speakers.

All Commission meetings are free and open to the public.  The meeting will be live-streamed and archived on the Commission Web site at www.bioethics.gov. Transcripts will be posted on the Web site after the meeting.

Contact: Michael Turton, Communications Associate,
turtonm@thehastingscenter.org  (845) 424 4040 ext. 242